[KS] Choson currency?

sumnom at u.washington.edu sumnom at u.washington.edu
Mon Aug 14 20:31:37 EDT 2006


There was only very limited use of coins in Joseon until the late seventeenth century. There were mintages in 1423 and 1633 (both Joseon tongbo) but these coins were not popular and saw very little circulation. The primary media of exchange were rice and cloth. There were virtually no coins circulating in Joseon for the period in which you are interested.

There were several attempts to introduce paper currency in the fifteenth century but these issues were largely rejected as well.

I do not know much about the use of uncoined silver but it seems that silver was used primarily in the Ming and Qing trade or, less commonly, for larger transaction within Joseon.

Pages 50-59 and chapters 23-26 of James Palais' <<Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions>> are by far the best English language work on Joseon currency that I have seen. His footnotes are rich so be sure to take advantage of them!

For an English numismatic catalogue, see Edgar Mandel's <<Cast Coinage of Korea>>.

In Korean, I would recommend anything by Won Yuhan. <<Uri nara hwapye geumyung sa>> by Yi Seongnyun (seok-ryun), <<Yijo ui hwapye>> by Song Chansik, <<Joseon hwapye go>> by Yu Jahu, <<Hanguk hwapye sa>> published by the Bank of Korea (Hanguk Eunhaeng) are all worth looking into as well. <<Hanguk hwapye gagyeok dorok>> by Gim Insik and <<Hanguk ui gojeon>> by Han Yeongdal are standard Korean language numismatic references.

You might also want to look into the <<Jeungbo munheong bigo>>. The <jaeyong go> section provides an interesting narrative on currency for the Goryeo and Joseon periods.

I hope this was helpful.

Joshua Van Lieu

On Mon, 14 Aug 2006, Jong-Won Kim wrote:

> Greeting everyone,
> I am looking for information regarding the currency
> system used in early Choson (up to and including the
> Imjin War's aftermath).
> It is my understanding that copper coins (tongbo) were
> used along with debt notes and silver bars, but my
> knowledge is lacking in this area. I would appreciate
> any help.
> Was the use of currency limited?
> What other coins & currency forms were used? What was
> their name?
> Was paper currency used?
> What was their comparative value?
> Where Ming coins accepted in Choson, or did merchants
> have to convert them to local currency?
> What was the exchange rate between Choson and Ming
> coins?
> Thank you for your time,
> Jong-Won Kim
> Montevideo, Uruguay
> "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
> -Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses"
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