&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Mug shots on the cash

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&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Mug shots on the cash

Money, money, money. Many Koreans are talking about it ― whether there should be a 100,000 ($84) note and what design should be on the new bill. I’ve heard lots of opinions from the people I’ve met lately.
Park Seung, the chairman of the Bank of Korea, is trying to squelch the speculation. He said recently, “We cannot print new money right now because it takes at least two years’ preparation, and the economic situation is not right.”
But talk about the designs of bank notes ― or more specifically, whose portrait should be on bank notes ― shows no sign of abating.
The problem with the current currency issue in Korea is that the portraits are too biased, in terms of names, times and sex.
Five persons have appeared on Korean money since the founding of the republic: Syngman Rhee, King Sejong, Admiral Yi Sun-shin, Yi I and Yi Hwang. They are all men, and they all have the same family name, even if the names are spelled a bit differently in English. President Rhee’s face is no longer on the currency, and all four of the faces now seen were Joseon Dynasty figures.
With regard to coins and notes, Koreans are locked into the period of the Joseon Dynasty, and there are no representatives of earlier dynasties ― Ancient Joseon, Goguryeo, Silla, Baekje or Goryeo.
There is no rule that says only national leaders must appear on the money. We should also consider that the money represents us, and it appears from the coins and notes that Korea’s long history and culture consisted only of the Yi family and their Joseon Dynasty. In our currency designs, there seem to be some problems in historical understanding.
The gender bias is also a problem; there have been many outstanding women in Korean history. Women’s rights activists question why Korean history is only male history, and want to see a woman’s portrait used.
The United States now uses only men’s portraits on its coins and notes. But Great Britain uses only that of Queen Elizabeth II. France, before adopting the euro, featured the composer Debussy, the painter Delacroix, the philosopher Montesquieu and even the Little Prince of the novelist Saint-Exupery.
Money also reflects the cultural aspirations of a country. We need to see some of our culture reflected on our money.

by Kim Seok-whan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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