From Marteau



For purposes of accounting the Won seems to have been Korea's central currency unit over the last centuries. Political instabilities and anxieties of the landowning aristocracy afraid of a new class of powerful merchants threatening their social status resulted in periods in which the use of metal money seems to have been suppressed. Used cloth and grain thus served as the central currency from 1656 into the 1660s. The history of a stable metal based currency only now began.

The minting of copper coins was resumed by the government in 1678. Private parties minted coins as well. The government set a ratio between copper cash and silver, overvalued, however, the copper mun (cash) coins. Rates fluctuated between 200 and 400 copper mun equalling 1 silver yang. The market rate seems to have been 800 copper mun = 1 silver yang.

At the end of the 17th century Korea's government abandoned attempts to set exchange rates for cash in terms of silver. In the 1700s, copper cash became the main medium of exchange, and silver was held mainly as a reserve currency. From the early 1700s to the early 1800s, the weight of copper coins was reduced by about 50%. In 1731, the government minted a large issue of cash coins and Korea in effect adopted monetary exchange irrevocably, despite the misgivings of some rulers and other influential people. In 1751, the minting of coins changed from an irregular to an annual activity. In 1825, 1829, and 1830 the metallic value of cash coins was 92%, 73%, and 73%, respectively, of its legal tender value. Private mints, which existed with royal permission, were forbidden in 1864. Kurt Schuler (2004)


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