The Korea Herald


S. Korea to remove ‘pro-colonial Japan’ artist’s work from coins, banknotes

By Bae Hyunjung

Published : Nov. 10, 2020 - 16:50

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(Bloomberg photo) (Bloomberg photo)

South Korea is working on replacing its frequently used 100-won coins as the design includes a portrait drawn by an artist who was pro-Japanese during the colonial period, the country’s central bank said Tuesday.

The historical figure whose face will be removed or redrawn is Admiral Yi Sun-sin, whose statue stands permanently in Seoul’s downtown Gwanghwamun Square. The naval hero from the Joseon Dynasty who scored dramatic victories against Japanese invaders in the southern seas is most famous for the invention of the geobukseon, or turtle ship.

The Bank of Korea said Tuesday that it will consider changing the currency designs, should the government cancel its previous designation for the portraits that are currently printed on banknotes and coins.

The currency designs have been picked among those designated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

But a presidential committee in charge of related historic investigations revealed in 2009 that the portraits of Yi Sun-sin, Confucian scholar Yukgok Yi I, King Sejong, female artist and poet Shin Saimdang -- featured in 100-won coins, 5,000-won notes, 10,000-won notes, and 50,000-won notes, respectively -- had been painted by pro-Japanese collaborators.

Of them, the 100-won coins faces the most imminent change as the ministry is currently reviewing the possibility of lifting its previous designation of Yi’s portrait.

“The change will not require significant costs as conventional 100-won coins will be melted and reshaped into new coins,” the BOK said, adding that it is not yet certain whether the given figure will be removed altogether or simply replaced by another portrait version.

While no official petitions have been submitted on the remaining disputed banknotes, the ministry said that it will seek to make the change on its own. The replacement of the three paper banknote designs is expected to cost some 470 billion won ($422 million), officials said.

By Bae Hyun-jung (