Having recently re-visited the Bank Museum in downtown Seoul, I was happy to see it hadn’t changed before making my way to Myeongdong and otherwise enjoying the area.
It was a couple weeks later when I was walking through that same pedestrian overpass and realized that Woori Bank had their own museum to take in. It’s in the building’s basement, and went unnoticed for far too long. To be fair, of course, being in the basement and having little in the way of outside advertisement means it’s bound to feel a little… lonely…
Entering the museum is simple enough, but curious — you’ll be directed towards the right into what looks like an empty room. The motion sensors kick in, starting a short video complete with space and history flying through the air. The doors to the museum open at exactly the same time the ‘doors’ open on the video — a very impressive start.
Above is a recreation of how accounts were kept during the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392 AD) — unfortunately, the legend is only in Korean.
A check note from 1878 — you’ll see a lot of hanja throughout the historical pieces.
Not sure when Roman numerals began being used in Korea, but this double-entry general ledger from 1933 is from the Gyeongseong (now Seoul) branch of the Japan First-bank.
Mergers and name changes were as common then as they are now.
The curiously named ‘Woman’s Bank’ has some of the back story nearby, an undated, unnamed newspaper talking about how this bank’s safe is only available to women.
Put the pie chart together so you have exactly 7,500 won for a friend’s birthday gift — complete with pluses and minuses, it’s harder than it looks.
Thus far, the museum had really impressed me with the attention to detail and its general up-to-date nature. And then….
D’oh! The online banking computer running Windows ME and Internet Explorer 6 — a combination so woefully out of date it had to be mentioned. I’ve seen floppy disks that are newer than this thing. Hopefully no one actually tries doing their internet banking at this particular place.
One minor disaster and a look at the company’s past executives aside, the bottom floor is easily the highlight:
If the ground floor was about the history of money, the lower level was about the history of places to store money. Where and how these were acquired isn’t always clear, but in most cases the colors and child-friendly nature make this the reason to bring the kids along.
The old-school piggy bank. re-imagined Korean style from the mid-1990’s.
Being fancy with the camera again — to be fair, the bright lights behind the banks and the glass made this much more difficult to get clear pictures of…
Some French shoes, anyone? These date back to the early-to-mid 20th century.
The subject may be the same as the more official museum across the street, and they’re both worth visiting — especially on the same trip. It helps that they’re a stone’s throw away from each other, and both are completely free to enter.
Name: Woori Bank Museum (우리은행 은행사박물관)
Address: Seoul-si Jung-gu Hoehyeon-dong-2-ga 86, basement
Korean address: 서울특별시 중구 회현동2가 86 지하1층
Directions: On the Seoul subway station, get to Hoehyeon station, line 4, exit 1. Walk straight to the intersection about 200 meters away and look for the Woori Bank building on the corner. Head down into the pedestrian overpass and look for the entrance to the bank museum.
Hours: 10am-6pm (last admission at 5:30pm — closed Sundays and holidays)