The ancient Korean coinage included Chinese coins known locally as oshuchon. Rulers of Korea started minting their own coins from late 10th century, first in copper and iron, and later in bronze. However, these Korea coins never gained wide circulation. The first known currency of Korea was the knife money called ‘Myeongdojun’. When the Goryeo kingdom was overthrown by the Josean dynasty in 1392, Taejong (founder of the dynasty) made several attempts in improving the monetary system. Finally in the 17th century 24 mints were established and Korea coins started to form a major part of the exchange system.
In 1633 Korea mun was made the main currency and copper and bronze coins were introduced. Korea yang took over as chief currency in 1892. This was the only currency which used the decimal system, dividing one yang into 100 fun. In 1902 Korea won was introduced as the official currency unit but this system was too short lived due to Japan’s annexation. Korean yen replaced Korea won at par.
Korea was divided into two after the end of World War II – North Korea and South Korea. Each country had its own currency although both were known as Korea won which replaced the earlier yen. North Korea coins were subdivided into 100 chon and presently include denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 won. South Korea coins were subdivided into 100 jeon although jeon is no longer used in everyday transactions. Currently 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 South Korea won are found in circulation although the former two are very rare.