Feeling Poor at Seoul’s Money Museum

“Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”
Pink Floyd, Money

There are museums you don’t expect to visit on your travels. It’s happened before. I still regret visiting the Icelandic Phallological Museum. But sometimes the unexpected museums are more interesting. Fortunately, the Bank of Korea Money Museum in Seoul was a much better experience than that disturbing museum in Reykjavik.

Namdaemun, the largest gate in Seoul
Namdaemun, the largest gate in Seoul

It was on one of the hotter days in Seoul last summer, when I was wandering a new neighborhood on my day off, that I came across the Money Museum. I headed for the area to visit Namdaemun, the largest of the city gates in Seoul, and then wander around the nearby market (it was too crowded with tourists for my liking). After wandering through the crowds in the heat, I needed relief.Bank of Korea Money Museum

That’s when I saw an interesting building across the street–it was classical Western architecture. I walked over to take a look as well as a few pictures.

I wasn’t all that interested in visiting a money museum, but admission was free and the space was air conditioned–the decision was practically made for me. The decision was even easier when I noticed that the museum wasn’t crowded like the market across the street.

Bank of Korea Money Museum
The opulence inside the Bank of Korea Money Museum

I didn’t expect much from the Money Museum, which is probably why it impressed me. This wasn’t just the Bank of Korea showing off its fortune–it was interesting and educational. (Alright, it was also the bank showing off it’s beautiful building, but there was more to it.) Most of the exhibits were intended to teach children about the banking system and even about the basics of savings and investing.

Recycle that cash and make more
Recycle that cash and make more

There was even some educational information for people like me. I had no idea how money was recycled–they can use it as construction material, or so they claim. And there was history about the bank for those who want to know more about the Bank of Korea.

North Korean currency
Dear Leader’s North Korean money

Of course, there was also the room full of currency. They had one of everything–even money from Kim Jong-un’s most glorious Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that tends to use US dollars more than their own printed currency, which I assume is suitable for toilet paper. But they also had Zimbabwe’s worthless currency–you know, the trillion dollar bill that was worth about one US dollar before Mugabe caved in and revalued the currency (it’s now about 360 Zimbabwean dollars to one US dollar).

For a free museum, it was definitely worth the price of admission (they didn’t even charge an ATM fee).

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