Korea's "best mom"chosen as face of new currency

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s central bank on Monday chose the face of Korean motherhood as the first woman to be featured on its banknotes, but women’s rights groups say the selection only reinforces sexist stereotypes.

Shin Saimdang, known for raising a famed Confucian scholar and having a deft hand in painting, is seen in this portrait released by the Bank of Korea November 5, 2007. REUTERS/The Bank of Korea/Handout

Shin Saimdang, known for raising a famed Confucian scholar and having a deft hand in painting, will grace the new 50,000 won ($55) note when it debuts in early 2009, the Bank of Korea said.

Women’s groups say her selection bolsters the idea that mothers should stay at home and devote their lives to their children’s education.

Shin, whose nickname is “wise mother”, gave birth to the 16th-century scholar Yi I, also known by his pen name Yulgok. She is celebrated for placing her son on the path to fame.

A paper on a government Web site describes Shin as “the best example of motherhood in Korean history”, while the central bank said she was selected “to promote gender equality and women’s participation in society”.

Women’s rights groups acknowledge Shin as an important figure but have been pushing for other female candidates, who have risen to positions of power and respect in a male-dominated society, to be placed on the new note.

“Although women nowadays are highly capable and educated, the idea of ‘wise mother and good wife’ holds them down,” said Kwon Hee-jung, secretary general of the women’s rights group


More than a dozen women’s rights groups plan to protest against the bank’s decision.

Yulgok’s face is already on the 5,000 won note. Shin will appear on the second-highest valued note after the new 100,000 bill is also issued in 2009.

$1=905.5 Won