Can old financial documents fascinate? Bank on itIn 1897, Hanseong Bank, Korea’s first modern bank opened. In order to celebrate the centennial of modern Korean banking, Chohung Bank ― the successor of the Hansong ― established the Chohung Museum of Finance on Feb. 10, 1997. The museum occupies the third and fourth floors of a Chohung Bank branch in downtown Seoul.
Chohung Museum is just one of three museums in Korea dedicated to finance, but it offers a different view on the subject than the other two. “The [other museums] focus more on coins and minting, past and present, whether they be coins from other countries, special edition coins, or the stamping machines,” says Kim Jae-wook, the director of the Chohung Museum. “On the other hand, we focus less on coins, but more on the records of the past, such as old ledgers, books, certificates, and official papers.”
The third floor houses the actual museum and the bulk of the collection, which includes about 2,500 books, pictures, financial documents, securities and other publications. It is split up into four areas, the Chohung History Hall, Traditional Banking Hall, Modern Banking Hall and Currency Exhibition Hall. The sections show the steps taken to develop Korea’s financial and banking sectors.
The museum begins with the Traditional Banking Hall, whose artifacts trace the roots of banking in Korea and the development of the economy. This section depicts the fledgling economy in exhibits about government relief work and the histories of cooperatives, commission agencies and pawnbrokers. As Korea began to develop its financial system, there came talk of opening a bank with native Korean capital, and thus began the modern banking age in Korea. The Modern Banking Hall shows a variety of documents that chart the course of this modernization from the 19th century to today.
Past a decorative vault door and through a circular opening lies the Currency Exhibition Hall. Before the widespread use of sangpyeongtongbo, a 17th century Joseon coin, a barter system was in place in Korea based on grains, fabrics and imported Chinese coins. This part of the museum shows the evolution of native Korean capital using coins and paper money, and a model depicting the early hand-minting of Korean coins.
Because this museum was established by the Chohung Bank, there is also a section on the history of the Chohung Bank.
The fourth floor contains a gallery that is presently closed, but from Feb. 19 to June 30, will feature the works of 10 artists.
The museum is closed on Sundays and public holidays, but otherwise is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. In order to get to the museum, take subway line No. 5 to Gwanghwamun Station, go out exit No. 6 and the museum is a short walk from there.
by Steven Lee
For more information, call (02) 738-6806