SEOUL, South Korea — FX is the abbreviation for Foreign Exchange. Whether you are bringing money into Korea, sending it out or taking it out with you, there are some things you should know. There are four types of FX transactions that affect you if you are an expat living in Korea.
1. Foreign Currency Exchange
You can easily change up to and including 1 million of your KRW into a foreign currency. You will just have to show your passport to the bank teller. If you want to exchange anything over 1 million KRW into a foreign currency, the teller will record the transaction in your passport. It is a hassle and an annoyance, but there is no use fighting it; it is a federal law that all banks must follow.
If you would like to exchange more than $10,000 USD worth of KRW into a foreign currency, you will have to provide proof of the source of those funds. In actuality, if you are earning money legally here, you can exchange as much of it into another foreign currency as you would like.
Changing a foreign currency INTO KRW is slightly less complicated. For anything less than or equal to $20,000 USD, you just have to show your passport to the teller. Easy. To exchange a foreign currency worth more than $20,000 USD into KRW, you have to show your passport to the teller and show the “Declaration of Currency or Monetary Instrument Certificate”* that you received from the Bank of Korea (“???????????”) or that you received at the customs office at the airport (“?????????”) when you declared that you were carrying all that cash into the country with you.
*In Korean this certificate is either called a “???????????” or a “?????????” depending on where it was issued.
Please note that the next three FX transactions all fall under the same $50,000 USD (or equivalent) per year limit. This means that you can’t remit $50,000 overseas through wire transfer, withdraw another $50,000 at overseas ATMs, and charge another $50,000 USD with your credit card while overseas. The maximum total combination of these next 3 types of transactions can be $50,000 USD (or equivalent) per year.
2. Overseas Remittance (International wire transfer)
You can send up to and including $50,000 USD (or equivalent) overseas per year. Please be advised that a “year” begins in January and ends in December. Tellers can remit up to this limit with no questions asked, but they do have the right to make a fuss if they want. To avoid a hassle with your bank teller, register for online banking and send money overseas online 24 hours a day (and save on transaction fees too!).
However, if you would like to send more than the $50,000 USD limit, you must do it at a teller counter and you must provide proof of the source of funds. With this proof, you can send as much as you want.
3. Overseas Withdrawal from your KRW Account (with your international check card)
The maximum amount you can withdraw from overseas ATMs with your international check card from Korea is $50,000 USD (or equivalent) per year (January – December).
Of course, every bank offers multiple types of cards (Shinhan Card has more than 400 types of cards). The per transaction, per day, and per month withdrawal limits may vary by bank and by card, but it is not possible to exceed the $50,000 USD per year limit for this type of transaction. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of your specific card with your teller before traveling.
4. Overseas Credit Card Spending
Most credit cards issued in Korea will work overseas. Again, your overseas credit card spending limit is included in that $50,000 USD (or equivalent) per year cap and there is no way to exceed this limit for overseas credit card spending.
One last important item of note is that the Bank of Korea requires everyone (Koreans and foreigners alike) to designate just one bank branch as your “Primary Foreign Exchange Transaction Bank” before engaging in any type of FX transaction (excluding foreign currency exchange transactions below $10,000 USD). This is a simple process requiring you to sign a document that says all of your FX transactions will be done through one bank (any branch of that bank). You can change your bank designation at any time by just filling out the form at another bank. Annoying? Yes. Difficult? No.
The table below illustrates the different FX transaction types, limits, and requirements.
FX Transaction Type
|1. Foreign Currency Exchange||
(outflow of KRW)
|Foreign Currency||≤ 1 million KRW||Per transaction||Must show your passport, but transaction will not be recorded in it.|
|> 1 million KRW||Per transaction||Transaction MUST be recorded in your passport.|
|> $10,000 USD||Per transaction||Must designate a Primary FX Transaction Bank and provide proof of source of funds|
(inflow of KRW)
|KRW||≤ $20,000 USD||Per transaction||Must show passport|
|> $20,000 USD||Per transaction||Must show passport & Currency Declaration|
2. Overseas Remittance
(international wire transfer),
|Korea||Overseas||≤ $50,000 USD||Per year||Must designate a Primary FX Transaction Bank|
|> $50,000 USD||Per year||Must designate a Primary FX Transaction Bank & Must provide proof of source of funds|
|3. Overseas Withdrawal from your KRW Account (with your international check card)||Korea||Overseas||≤ $50,000 USD||Per year||Must designate a Primary FX Transaction Bank|
|4. Overseas Credit Card Spending|
Michelle Farnsworth is an 8-year resident of Korea who is currently the Foreign Client Relationship Manager at the Shinhan Bank Seoul Global Center – the first and only bank branch in Korea that is exclusively dedicated to serving foreigners and foreign companies. Please visit the “Shinhan Bank Seoul Global Center” on Facebook for more information or contact Michelle directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out her “Ask Michelle” column in Seoul’s Groove Magazine.
Please note that the banking information provided in this article is based on Shinhan Bank policies and may not be applicable to all banks in Korea.