Record Numbers of W50,000 Bills Go Back into Circulation

      January 15, 2019 11:43

      Koreans are gradually putting W50,000 notes, the biggest denomination available, back into circulation after apparently hoarding the bills (US$1=W1,123).

      The Bank of Korea said Sunday that the retrieval rate of W50,000 bills reached a record 69.8 percent from January to November of last year. Some W22.9 trillion worth of W50,000 notes were issued last year, and W16 trillion worth were retrieved.

      The notes were first issued in June 2009 and mark their 10th anniversary this year. More than W183 trillion of the bills have been printed since but only half of them have been retrieved.

      For smaller W10,000, W5,000 and W1,000 notes, the retrieval rate stands at between 91 and 106 percent.

      But W50,000 notes are just big enough to stash away black money in cash. One stash of W800 million in cash that was discovered in the summer home of the owner of the ferry Sewol that sank in 2014 consisted entirely of W50,000 notes.

      A Bank of Korea survey three years ago suggested each household sits on an average W300,000 in emergency cash, and 80 percent of that is W50,000 notes.

      The retrieval rate of the notes stood at only 25.8 percent in 2014 but has risen markedly because supplies have increased, according to the BOK, which has printed more than W20 trillion worth of the bills since 2015.

      Also, the increasing use of electronic payments also contributed to a decline in the use of paper notes.

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