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Total commemorative banknotes issued is under 1,500 pieces. If you have achieved any figures close to this, then you are doing extremely well, as many of the older commemorative notes are hard to find even in poor conditions.

Opinion: Many collectors of commemorative banknotes would have come across with those Somaliland sets overprinted with gold and silver texts with the following wordings - 5th Anniversary of Independence 18 May 1996 [Sanad Gurade 5ee Gobanimadda 18 May 1996]. I believe these are "home made" (or fake) and not authorised by the central bank. My argument is simple. No central bank would have issued an overprint commemorative banknote that the texts are so large that it would cover the two signatures on the note as well as part of the serial numbers. Even if these are genuine notes, then these could be issued as souvenir sheets and not as legal tender. As I said before, this is my opinion. If you have paid top dollars for these, please think about my argument. There is always a sucker around the corner, including me of course!

All comments are most welcome but it has to be subjects related to banknotes or banknotes collection. If not, it will not be approved. Thanks

01 January 2018

...South Korea - 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games Commemorative

The Bank of Korea

This is the first commemorative banknote ever issued by The Bank of Korea. This is also the first time the Bank of Korea has issued a banknote with the denomination of 2000 Won (number 2), as the bank traditionally issued banknotes in the values of 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50000 Won etc.

This 2000 Won (이천원) commemorative note was supposed to release on 17.11.2017 but delayed until 11.12.2017. This note celebrates the 2018 PyeongChang XXIII Winter Olympic Games (from 09.02.2018 to 25.02.2018). The hosting rights were awarded to PyeongChang on 06.07.2011 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Durban, South Africa. PyeongChang won the rights by beating two other candidates, namely Munich (Germany) and Annecy (France). This is the third time PyeongChang (평창군) bidded for the Winter games, having previously lost to Vancouver (Canada 2010) and Sochi (Russia 2014). After South Korea, China will host the next Winter Olympic games in Beijing in 2022. It should also be noted that this is the second Olympic Games to be held in South Korea. The first was the Summer games in Seoul in 1988.

This is the second legal tender Winter Olympics banknote ever issued and the fifth banknote issued to celebrate the Olympic games (both Winter and Summer).

The note is predominantly printed in black and white. I suppose this is appropriate given that it's all about the Winter games, snow and cold!

Watermark: PyeongChang Olympic Stadium;
Letter Prefix/Suffix: AA 0000000 A & AA 0000000 B;

Security features include: Windowed Security Thread, Hologram (snowflake image), Watermark, Intaglio printing, Intaglio Latent Image, Tactile Marks for Vision-Impaired, Novel Numbering, Colour-Shifting Ink for the 2000 Won value & Micro Lettering.
Manufacturer: Korea Minting Security Printing & ID Card Operating Corp.

Like all South Korea banknotes previously issued in the past, the note bears the bank governor's (총재) seal on the front of the note and the seal reads as 한국은행총재 (Governor of the Bank of Korea).  

The note is measured 140mm x 75mm. A total of 2.8 million pieces have been printed and issued in 3 formats - single, 2-in-1 uncut and 24-in-1 uncut sheets. All notes were issued in a simple folder and all were sold with a premium above the face value: -

Single 2000 Won note (920,000 sets in folder) = 8,000 Won
2 uncut sheet (210,000 sets in folder) = 15,000 Won
24 uncut sheet (40,000 sets in tube) = 168,000 Won

The purchase order for this issue was opened between 11.09.2017 to 29.09.2017 and was made available at Kookmin Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea, Nonghyup Bank, Suhyup Bank, Shinhan Bank, Wooribank, Korea Post, Kyongnam Bank, Daegu Bank, Busan Bank and Poongsan-Hwadong

Given that the notes are sold with a premium, it is very unlikely that you will ever see this note in general circulation. It has also been reported that the PyeongChang Organizing Committee bought the banknotes in bulk and resold them to domestic and overseas collectors.

This is the 6th Olympic Games banknote issued to celebrate the games (both Winter and Summer) since 2008 (2008 - China, Hong Kong Bank of China, Macau Bank of China; 2014 - Russia; and 2016 - Fiji). Despite so many coins being issued, it is surprising to see so few banknotes have been issued to commemorate the Olympic Games.

Two Thousand Won
Dated 2018, Prefix AA-A, Seven sports of speed skating (short track speed skating is a strong event for the South Koreans), ice hockey, curling, biathlon, ski jumping, luge and bobsled. The main feature is speed skating, with a mountainous view of Gangwon Province in the background. PyeongChang is one of the 11 counties situated in the Gangwon province and it's approximately 180 km east of Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
 Two Thousand Won
Dated 2018, Prefix AA-B
Reverse - painting of a "Tiger Under A Pine Tree," by Kim Hong-do, a renowned artist from the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), who went by the pen name "Danwon". Tiger is the mascot of the PyeongChang games and this could be the reason they have selected this painting for the design. 
2000 Won, 2-in-1 Uncut Sheet
Dated 2018, 2-in-1 Uncut

It was reported that the entire issue was sold out shortly after it was opened for pre-order.

Whilst many South Korean citizens and collectors around the world would be happy to see such a commemorative note issued to celebrate this special occasion, many locals were not that happy when the central bank first released the design of this banknote.

Below are some of the negative remarks reported by a local newspaper about the final design;
*Childish and substandard design;
*More like a North Korean banknote;
*Like a high school winner project;
*Why was the image of the tiger included?;
*Poor and embarrassing;

As a collector, I can tell you that no matter how you have designed a banknote, you can never satisfy everyone. I have seen a lot of those so-called annual award winning designs of banknotes around the world and I can tell you that opinion is very subjective and I would not have selected those winning notes either. Whilst this South Korean Olympic note may not be perfect, I do not believe it deserved those negative responses. However I do agree that the reverse side of the note can do a little bit better. In case you are not aware of this, the Tiger is the Mascot of the game. Perhaps they should have made the tiger image smaller with a less scary one. Why picked such an angry and threatened/defensive tiger image for the design? Is this not a friendly game anymore? The games main venue should be added to the back of the note, after all, this note is all about the Winter games.

I personally have no issue with this note. At least the note is not crowded with security features or many other unnecessary designs or images. It is good to see that this note was not printed on Polymer or Hybrid materials. It is not necessary to prolong the life span of this note as it will never get circulated like those normal banknotes issued. Provided you store this note in a dry and cool environment, it will last forever. 


  1. There are at least a few reasons why the tiger was included on the 2000 Won bill.

    For starters, Koreans believe the Korean peninsula is the shape of a tiger. (You can Google that)

    Moreover, Koreans have many tales with tigers in them, sometimes depicting them as frightening creatures and sometimes as pure idiots. I've read that the reason for this is that the first was a fact (there are no more in the wild, but when there were, they'd eat people) and the second was a way to deal with the anxiety of that threat.

    The traditional painting that was included is remarkably similar to a style of painting called 까치와 호랑이 그림 or "Magpie & Tiger Painting" which has many versions (You can Google this, too). It always included at least one magpie in a pine tree and at least one tiger below. Often, the tigers were painted as funny looking and with a wild look in their eyes as they stared at the magpie(s) in the tree.

    There are at least three interpretations I know of for this kind of painting.

    (1) The pine tree represents the first month of the lunar calendar. The magpie represents the bringer of good news. And the tiger is the most powerful spirit animal among real animals in Korean folklore. Koreans would hang this painting on their front door at the time of the new year to protect their homes and bring good luck.

    (2) The magpie(s) in the tree represent regular folks. The tiger(s) under the tree represent the powerful upper-class elites. The magpie(s) were usually drawn with beaks wide open while staring back at the tiger(s) suggesting they were criticizing the tiger(s). The tiger(s), powerless to do anything about it, could only stare back with wild and humorous looks on their faces. So it's a sort of class-struggle kind of interpretation.

    (3) It's just funny.

    Anyway, I just wanted to give you some information about Korean traditional beliefs and culture so that you could better appreciate what has been included on the bill. I'd like to know why this particular painting was selected over the one I described above, but I'd guess that one that was used projects the power and fierceness that Koreans see in themselves.

  2. Hi Ed Provencher,

    Thank you for your comment and some interesting facts. You must be annoyed that it took me so long to approve you comment. For some reasons, I did not get a notification for your message and I did not know until today when I checked the site. You were not the only one too. I have no idea what went wrong with my site. I always welcome comments when it is topic related.

    Once again thank you for your comment and for visiting my site.