June 16, 2015 11:57
The number of W500 coins in circulation has increased dramatically since early this year in the wake of the hike in tobacco prices.
The Bank of Korea said Monday that W15.4 billion worth of W500 coins were added to circulation from January to May, a five-fold increase from W3.1 billion in the same period last year (US$1=W1,119).
The amount accounted for 75 percent of total outstanding coins for the first five months of the year.
"The main reason for the growing demand for W500 coins is the increase in cigarette prices. Many people who used to buy cigarettes two packs at a time now buy only one, so [vendors] need more W500 coins to make change," a Bank of Korea official said.
The government increased tobacco prices by W2,000 per pack early this year to some W4,500.
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