The Chohung Bank Museum of Finance
[Note: the main post doesn't begin until after a few paragraphs of verbal diarrhea.]
"Well, you can have the good news first, or the bad news." First, the bad news: that smile should be wiped off my face: I do not respect this corporation. In addition to the Mugyo Branch's being thoroughly unhelpful when my second money wire to my Canadian bank didn't go through after three weeks (!) last year, the bank's representative the other day at my branch last week transferred 1,000,000 Won when I requested a transfer of 1,100,000W. Yet he debited my account for the latter amount! Then, when I pointed this out, he told me that I needed to pay a cable charge (which isn't necessary, as the Canadian side always charges anyway), and so now I'm out 16,000W, or about $16 CDN. A manager was watching during this time and did not intervene. I couldn't argue as I had to hurry to work (the wait having been unusually long!). So, to all people wiring money home, I say, "Beware of the Chohung Bank (CHB)!"
So much for that. Now, this post requires another prologue, in the sense that I must explain why it was so long in coming. Well, I want to explain, anyway. Ian and I went to the museum on the 15th. Unfortunately for us, the main floor, the third floor, was closed. So we checked out the fourth floor, and I took some pictures. The gallery was deserted, and we were the only ones there. Then we went down to the third floor, and actually walked around in the half-lit room as it was being renovated. Of course, we couldn't stay long.
So, the following Wednesday, the 22nd, we went back. This time, the third floor was open, and the gallery was very nice. My previous "tantalizing" post shows a picture which relates the architecture to the content of the building--a rarity in Seoul. Anyway, that post was simply to keep my loyal readers interest up--the actual post on the museum, namely, the one I'm now writing would have been done much sooner, but for the problem with Hello. Incidentally, the help reply from Hello left a lot to be desired. The problem was not fixed until I uninstalled some wierd program called "View Manager" from my computer. I figured this program was causing the problem because it recently started asking my firewall for permission to access the internet.
So much for the negatives and excuses. Now, on to the real thing, the actual museum! Actually, it's funny how I could walk by that sign so many times and not notice it. The museum is located right next to my branch of the CHB, and is a two minute walk away from my workplace. I must say that it was a delight to see something "new" after all these months!
Located near the Gwangwhamun intersection, and a two minute walk away from my hogwan, this fascinating museum is located on the third (and perhaps for a while longer, on the fourth floor), of the CHB building next to the CFC and Paris Bagette:
Exterior of the building containing the Chohung Museum of Finance
Outside the museum, you can read this sign (with apologies for the odd job on the photography):
Upon entering the doors on the ground floor, you can see historic safes:
Upon reaching the third floor, you proceed through this stylish entrance (and no, I don't really care that I'm using the second person singular in this manner, since you can indeed, virtually go in, if you're reading this):
This next sign contains a basic overview of the history of banking in (South) Korea, with the Hansong Bank playing an important role in the transition to modern banking during the late 19th century. The Hansong Bank would later become the Chosun Bank.
In 1904, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea lost control of its monetary policy to the Japanese. The Chosun Bank, as the country's leading bank, played a roll in instituting the Japanese "reform." I note that the Chohung Bank's brochure contains this interesting historical tidbit; the Chosun Bank was founded in 1897, the same year that the predecessor of the Chohung Bank, the Hansong Bank, was established!
Historical Overview Sign
As in any society, the advent of money was preceded by barter. Many things, including grains, and seashells, were used in the bartering system. Here's the grain (I'd like to think it was historical grain!):
Prior to the "nation-wide" introduction of coinage, coins were either locally made, or were imported from China. This nation-wide coinage, known as 상평통보, ("Sangpyeongtongbo") was introduced in the 17th century, and was made of copper. The next picture shows coins from the Goryo dynasty, while the latter may show the newer 18th century coinage. The actual requirement that taxation be paid in coinage dates only to 1894!
In 1894 a standard silver currency came into being:
Proof Coins from the '88 Olympics
Being a numismatics hobbyist, it was particularly interesting to see examples of the equipment used in the process of minting coins:
In this next picture, you can see a close up of a model showing the manufacturing of Chosun era coins:
Of course, the crowning glory of the currency hall is not the proof coins, but the glass case showing 1,000,000 Won, about half of an average English teacher's salary. The brochure for the museum says this exhibit shows youngsters the true nature of 1,000,000 Won!
All those Won
Finally, just before leaving the currency exhibit, I found an exhibit of world coins, including some examples from my own country, Canada:
Proceeding from coins to bills, this next picture shows a bill I happen to own. It was issued by the Bank of Chosun. It says "1 Yen" on the reverse. Does anyone know who this personage on the obverse is?
Bank of Chosun bill
I am unsure of the nature of the next two "bills":
Moving on to historical financial records, I am afraid to say that I don't know anything about the next series of pictures, because there were no English explanations for them. It is fascinating to see the different types of materials used as paper, however.
Inside the museum you can also see various kinds of equipment of the banking industry at various times, including a lot not shown here:
The next picture shows one of many models. Many Korean museums have these models, which I think is very helpful.
Model of Chosun-era Bank
The next picture is an interesting historical photograph, showing architecture surpassing the current building. I don't know if this site is the same or not.
Finally, we come to my favorite part of the whole exhibit, an absolutely fascinating document dating to 1919, and bearing the signature of Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea. It is a certificate of indebtedness, issued by the President of a country not yet in existence! One certainly can be amused by the way in which Syngman Rhee could proclaim himself president in 1919! That bit of information wasn't something I learned on my visit to Eewhajang, the museum that was his house.
Certificate of Indebtedness
The certificate begins as follows: "This certifies that there is due from the Republic of Korea to the Bearer the sum of FIVE DOLLARS of the standard of value, weight, and fineness of gold coin of the United States of America, for the redemption...one year after the recognition of the Republic of Korea by the United States of America." The interest was to be between four and six percent, and would be paid with the principal upon presentation of these certificates to the authorities in Seoul. There was a Korean-language certificate on display, too. The politics behind these certificates must have been very interesting, indeed!
As usual, polite, informed comments, or expressions of interest are more than welcome.
UPDATE: On Monday I visited this museum a third time with the estimable Wyatt, who has now posted about his visit there with me.