[KS] Going, going, gyeong: but why 10 quadrillion?

Yuh Ji-Yeon j-yuh at northwestern.edu
Fri Sep 30 17:01:28 EDT 2005

Actually, I thought gyeong was 16 zeroes. That's the way my mother taught 
me numbers and she was a real math whiz. After man (4 zeroes), everything 
goes by 4-zero increments, and in  between is the repeated pattern of 
sib-X, baik-X, cheon-X.

10,000 is man
100,000 is sib-man
1,000,000 is baik-man
10,000,000 is cheon-man
and then you move on to the new unit of ok:
  100,000,000 is ok (8 zereos)

With gyeong, it would be following jo:
jo -- 12 zeroes
sib-jo -- 13 zeroes
baik-jo -- 14 zeroes
cheon-jo -- 15 zeroes
gyeong -- 16 zeroes

after that it's
hae -- 20 zeroes
ja -- 24 zeroes
yang - 28 zeroes

and so on. there are actually lots and lots more names for these huge 
numbers, all following the 4-zero increment system with the sib/baik/cheon 

My understanding is that gyeong is not really a new number name -- it's 
just one of those that didn't get used much and so the general public 
didn't know there was a name for such a large number. But perhaps someone 
has scholarly information about the Korean number system, rather than just 
experience like myself?


This link above is to a thread on Korean number names, with a nice table. 
It might not work, though, since I found it through a search and these 
links tend to expire.

Also, I had always thought that quadrillion had either 15 zereos (American 
short-scale) or 24 zereos (British long-scale).


This link above has a great table with large number names and values in 
both scales.


At 06:43 AM 2005.09.30, you wrote:
>A query for those less mathematically challenged than me
>(ie just about everyone).
>In the JoongAng story below, I'm puzzled why the new mega-unit
>should have 13 zeroes, rather than 12 or 16.
>If I have it aright, the man/ok system - whose use even in official
>English-language websites etc traps many an unwary foreigner
>brought up on three-based Western thousands/millions/billions
>- proceeds in quasi-binary units of 2 and 4, thus:
>baek                 100
>man                  10,000 (a hundred hundreds)
>ok                     100,000,000 (ten thousand ten thousands)
>That is already plenty big enough. But the ROK's perverse refusal
>to do to the won what de Gaulle did for the franc in 1959 - ie create
>a new won, worth 100 old won - means they now need mega-numbers;
>hence the gyeong. Fair enough.
>But why 13 zeroes? OK, ok ok (16 zeroes, ten quintillion!) is beyond need, 
>or grasp.
>But why not 12 zeroes (10,000 cubed), ie the western quadrillion?
>Has 13 some mystical significance? Lucky for some?
>I learn from Wikipedia (see below; sorry I don't know how to paste characters)
>that Chinese has words for both of the above (12 and 16 zeroes).
>But otherwise I'm outnumbered, and can only shriek: OOOOOOOOOOOOO!
>Can anyone figure it out?
>yours, nonplussed
>Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University
>Home address: 17 Birklands Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD18 3BY, UK
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>[Please use @aol; but if any problems, please try @yahoo too - and let me 
>know, so I can chide AOL]
>13 zeros all in a row: That's a gyeong here
>September 30, 2005 ? It's getting tougher to count the zeros in talking 
>about the Korean macroeconomy, and some statisticians probably wish the 
>won were worth only 10 or 100 to the dollar instead of over 1,000. All 
>those zeros to describe an economy the size of Korea's has forced a new 
>numerical term into use: one gyeong, a unit of 10 quadrillion.
>The Bank of Korea said yesterday that the sum of all transactions through 
>domestic financial service companies reached "2.7 gyeong won" or 27 
>quadrillion won ($26 trillion) last year. Transactions in derivatives are 
>also more than a gyeong's worth every year.
>A Bank of Korea official said that when Korea's broadly defined money 
>supply reached 1.3 quadrillion won, he had to refer foreign bankers to a 
>dictionary to confirm to them that there was such an English word as 
>There are also words in other languages with the same classic meaning as 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_language>Hebrew: revava
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_language>Chinese: wan4 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_language>Mandarin and maan6 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_language>Cantonese (?/?)
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_language>Japanese:man (?/?)
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_language>Korean: man (?/?/?)
>Chinese, Japanese and Korean also have words for a myriad squared (10 
>0002): yi (?/?), oku (?), and eok (?/?)(pronounced "awk"), respectively. A 
>myriad cubed (10 0003) is a zhao (?); cho (?); a myriad to the fourth 
>power (10 0004) is a jing (?); kei (?). Conversely, Chinese, Japanese and 
>Korean do not have single words for a thousand squared, cubed, etc., 
>unlike English.
>The English numbering system divides large numbers into groups of three 
>digits, and so the names for such numbers follow this division (10 000 = 
>ten <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thousand>thousand). Asian numbering 
>divides large numbers into groups of four; so in Chinese, Japanese, or 
>Korean, 30 000 really would be "three myriad" (3 0000 - Japanese san-man). 
>One <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million>million is a 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred>hundred myriad (100 x 10000 instead 
>of 1000 x 1000); the next uniquely named number after a myriad is ?, which 
>is myriad myriad (10000 x 10000) or a hundred million.Modern Greek still 
>uses the word "myriad" by itself, but also to form the word for million. 
>The word for million is ekatommyrio (hundred myriad - e?at?µµ????); one 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_E9>thousand million is disekatommyrio 
>(twice hundred myriad - d?se?at?µµ????).The largest number named in 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek>Ancient Greek was a myriad 
>myriad and <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedes>Archimedes of Syracuse 
>used this quantity as the basis for a numeration system of large powers of 
>ten, which he needed to count grains of sand, see 
><http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sand_Reckoner>The Sand Reckoner.There is 
>only slight indication that "myria" has at all been used as a metric 
>prefix for 10,000, e.g., 10 kilometres = 1 myriametre. It does not have 
>official status as a 

Yuh, Ji-Yeon
Associate Professor of History
Director of Asian American Studies
Northwestern University
Harris 202
1881 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208 USA
j-yuh at northwestern.edu
fax: 1-847-467-1393
[The Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea---<www.asck.org> ]
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