Stacks of damaged cash shoot upMoney doesn’t last forever. When it’s old and worn out or damaged, it’s removed from circulation and destroyed.
Last year 3.77 trillion won ($3.5 billion) was scrapped, including 2.5 billion won in coins. 600 million bills in total were sent into the furnace.
The amount of money that was removed from circulation increased 21 percent in 2017, from 3.11 trillion won the previous year. Over the last five years the amount of damaged or worn-out money has been on the rise - in 2013, only 2.21 trillion won was removed from circulation.
“It cost 61.7 billion won to replace the damaged bills with new ones,” said a Bank of Korea official.
The most damage-prone bill was the 10,000-won note, amounting to 3.4 trillion won, or 80.7 percent of the notes destroyed. The next-most common denomination was 50,000-won bills, which amounted to 333.8 billion won, or 8.9 percent. The 5,000-won bill accounted for 5.6 percent of the total, while 1,000-won notes made up 4.8 percent.
The scale of the damaged bills is impressive. The notes would fill 99 five-ton trucks, and, if laid end-to-end, could cover the length of the Gyeongbu expressway - from Seoul to Busan - 79 times.
Stacked up, the bills would be 21 times the height of Mount Baekdu’s 2,744-meter (9002-foot) peak and six times the height of Mount Everest, which is 8,848 meters. The pile would be 227 times bigger than Hanwha’s 63 Building in Yeouido, western Seoul.
As many as 70 million coins were also taken out of circulation last year. The most commonly damaged coins were 500-won coins, accounting for 37 percent of the total coins, or 910 million won. That was followed by the 100-won coin, worth 890 million won, or 36.1 percent; and the 10-won coin, worth 540 million won, or 21.9 percent.
The least-damaged coin was the 50-won one, only accounting for 5 percent of worn-out coins, worth 120 million won.
The amount of damaged money that was taken into banks to be exchanged has increased as well.
Last year 4.61 billion won was exchanged in banks, up 27 percent from the previous year’s 3.63 billion won.
The most common bill to be exchanged was the 50,000-won note, which accounted for 69.3 percent at 1.47 billion won. Among coins, the 500-won topped the lists with 54.4 percent, or 1.35 billion won.
One of the biggest reasons the bills are being damaged is because people are still hiding money around their house, often under furniture or rugs, where the high humidity and changing temperatures can cause the paper to rot.
In fact, bills that were inappropriately stored accounted for 54.7 percent of the 2,155 cases reported, while 33.9 percent of the incidents were caused by damage. Bills that were damaged by mishandling, for example by being accidentally run through the washing machine, accounted for 11.4 percent.
“Incidents of notes damaged because they were misplaced surged 57.9 percent last year compared to the previous year, which calls for changes to the public’s handling of currency,” said a BOK official.
Not all damaged bills that are brought to BOK counters are exchanged for the same value. In fact, in some cases only half of the value of the damaged bill is offered, and in the worst case an exchange is completely denied - 120 million won was rejected last year.
If up to a quarter of a bill is damaged, the bank will offer the face value, while if up to three-fifths of the bill is damaged, the bank will only offer half.
If a note has been burnt, the ashes have to be returned to the bank along with any remaining fragments. As result, if a note is damaged when it’s placed in a safe or in a wallet, it would be best to immediately place it in a container to transport it to the bank, ensuring that no pieces are lost.
BY HA HYUN-OCK [email@example.com]