A netizen said Monday on the free message board of the official Bank of Korea (BOK) Web site that she opts to spend the recently issued 50,000-won ($43) bills as soon as she obtains them, because she "always has trouble in distinguishing them from 5,000-won notes."
Such complaints are one of the most frequent issues regarding the bill. Five months into distribution, the newest bills are suffering from growing criticism due to their physical similarity to 5,000-won notes.
On the same board, another user said he overpaid his taxi fare by mistakenly paying with a 50,000-won bill instead of a 5,000-won one, adding her grandmother made the same mistake when shopping.
"If I, a 23-year-old, made that mistake, there's no doubt elderly people are more prone to such mistaken payments," he said, urging the government to change the color of the highest-value banknotes.
The amount of the new bills being issued has been on the rise lately. According to the BOK, their issuance amounts to 7.96 trillion won ($6.85 billion) overall as of last week, accounting for nearly 24 percent of the value of the nation's overall issued banknotes, and for 4 percent of the number of bill sheets.
Several taxi drivers admit that some malignant drivers commit "bill switching" when boarding drunks or foreigners, and advocate the expansion of a credit-card paying system for cabs.
The BOK, however, says no countermeasures are being considered at this time, adding there are several identification devices applied to the bills.
The 50,000-won bills are longer than 5,000-won notes by 12 millimeters, and a hologram on their surface is easily noticeable in dark places, the BOK said.
Also, a continued pattern is applied on each side of the bill and the serial number becomes bigger as it moves to the right, features that distinguish it from other banknotes, it added.
"Such criticism is somewhat groundless because U.S. dollar bills are issued all in the same color but not subject to such confusion," a BOK official said on condition of anonymity. "The two bills are different in color, as 50,000-won bills are yellow and 5,000-won bills are reddish-yellow."
However, he said different denominations can be more inconvenient here because U.S. banknotes use smaller units such as $1, $2, $5 and $10.