in South Korea

Myeongdong money exchange

Because I’m moving to China, I’ve had to exchange a lot of Korean won to Chinese yuan. Normally I wouldn’t exchange so much, but it seems so tricky to transfer money into China. Transferwise, Xoom, all of these services require that the recipient have a Chinese National ID card. And since I’m not a Chinese citizen, I’ll never have a Chinese National ID card. Cash it is. The maximum Chinese yuan cash import/export is 20,000 RMB, and that’s way more than I need.

Today’s mid-market rate is 1 CNY = 163 KRW. Everywhere in Myeongdong was posting 163, 164, 165, and 165.2 on the windows. This is, however, the buy rate, because most of the customers are tourists exchanging their money to KRW.

The exchanges near the Chinese consulate were posting buy rates of 165 and 165.2. Further away from the embassy were 163 and 164. So, for someone changing Chinese yuan to Korean won, the exchanges near the consulate are slightly better.

But for the reverse, to change Korean won into Chinese yuan? Despite the slightly different buy rates posted by the various exchanges I went to, all of them sold at 1 CNY = 166 KRW. The sell rate was never posted because most people who go to an exchange in Myeongdong are interested in exchanging foreign currency for KRW, not the other way around. 166 KRW is not bad, considering that the rate I was seeing inside the banks were 155 buy / 175 sell.

And I guess because I was exchanging Korean won to a foreign currency, nobody asked me for a passport. There’s signs everywhere that says passports are required — clearly, that’s only for foreign currency being exchanged into Korean won.

I went to about eight different exchange bureaus, to spread out the risk of getting fake money. I figured that instead of getting all fake money from one place, maybe just get fake money from one out of eight different places.

Was it real money? I’ll find out next week. I didn’t notice anyone doing any special checks on my Korean won for authenticity – that said, I’ve never come across any fake Korean currency. They ran the Korean money and foreign currency through the same bill counter. I don’t know if bill counters are sophisticated enough to detect fake bills in multiple currency? I assume the exchanges already did their checks on the foreign currency when they first got it, though. Would be silly for them to only check before selling it. All of my newly-acquired Chinese yuan feels and looks similar, so hopefully they’re all real, and not all fake.

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