If you travel to South Korea for a vacation, you will definitely come into contact with their currency notes (unless you are a card person). There are currently four types of currency notes in South Korea, and they somehow have a connection between them!
The 1,000 won note is represented by Yi Hwang who is one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty. Besides being a key figure of the Neo-Confucian literati, he also established the Yeongnam School and set up the Dosan Seowon, a private Confucian academy. Yi Hwang is often referred to by his pen name Toegye (Retreating Creek), and Toegyero, a street in central Seoul, is named after him.
The 5,000 won note is represented by Yi I, who is also one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty. Yi I is often referred by his pen name Yulgok (Chestnut valley), and is most famous for his Neo-Confucian teachings.
The 10,000 won note is represented by King Sejong the Great, who is known for presiding over the introduction of the 28-letter Korean alphabet, Hangul, with the explicit goal being that Koreans from all classes could read and write. He ruled for 32 years, and is one of only two Korean rulers posthumously honored with the appellation ‘the Great.’
The 50,000 won note has the biggest value and is shiny gold in color, and appears to be a common sight in crime thrillers like ‘The Con Artists?’ The 50,000 note was the newest addition to South Korean currency notes, having been introduced in 2009. The note is represented by Shin Saimdang who is also the only woman on the currency notes.
Some might find the name a tad familiar which is no surprise, since actress Lee Young Ae is headlining the SBS TV drama ‘Saimdang, the Herstory’ based on her and will premiere next year on television. Shin Saimdang was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, noted poet, and is simply known for being a good wife and wise mother. She is also the mother of Korean Confucian scholar Yulgok, who appears on the 5,000 won note.
So when you pay for things with the notes next time, you will know who they are!