The story behind the manufacture and release of these two South Korean commemorative coins is a roller coaster ride of tight deadlines and inadequacies at the South Korean Mint; all thrown in with a meddling big-shot friend of the president of the country. And if it had not been for a last-minute policy exception, the whole thing might not have happened at all. Such instability surrounding South Korea’s commemorative coin production was apparently the modal state of affairs in the late 1970s. The 42nd World Shooting Championships were the biggest international sporting event to have been hosted in South Korea before the 1988 Summer Olympics came 10 years later. The Chairman of the Shooting Championships, Pak Jong-gyu, was the former chief of presidential security in South Korea, and had helped President Park Chung-hee take power in the country's 1961 military coup d'etat. Riding on these coattails, Pak was able to intrude into the coin-design team's work on these coins. Pak Jong-gyu The original 1976 proposal for a commemorative coin issue in 1978 was actually to mint coins celebrating the 30th anniversary of the foundation of South Korea's government. However, Pak insisted that the Mint focus on creating a pair of Shooting Championships coins instead, and that they be ready for release before June 1978 in order not to disrupt a proposed distribution and marketing schedule for such coins. He got his way: The Foundation Anniversary coins were eventually cancelled. What followed, from March to July 1977, were five months of tedious back-and-forth consultations with Chairman Pak over the coin designs as the Bank of Korea and the Korean Mint got bogged down attempting to satisfy Chairman Pak’s desires concerning the coins’ appearance down to the tiniest detail. Having a micromanaging third party inserting itself between the Korean Mint team and the Bank of Korea was an unusual and frustrating experience that required an extra effort on the part of the Mint workers involved. Despite this difficulty, the Mint's design team finalized work on two designs that ultimately met with Pak’s approval. Pak wasn't the only problem. One complication in the late 1970s was the Korean Mint’s ongoing workforce deficiencies at its mint facility in the city of Gyeongsan. Although the Mint had recently worked hard to train its staff in the special processes involved in producing master hubs and dies for coin-striking operations, it was still experiencing an acute shortage of trained and experienced artists and technicians involved in creating relief sculpture engravings and galvano castings for use on the reducing lathes. 500 Won cupronickel commemorative Under intense pressure to have the master dies completed according to schedule, and with the start of the engraving process not exactly inspiring confidence, the chief of the Korean Mint opted for a risky “Plan B.” Without informing it's governing authority, the Bank of Korea, the Korean Mint independently entered into an secret contract on November 16, 1977 for the manufacture of the master dies at the Japan Mint. As might have been expected, this “secret” contract’s cover was blown when the bill for this contracted work showed up on the Bank of Korea’s expense ledger just a month later(!) And here's the kicker: The Korean Mint just ended up choosing, and using, the master dies that its own workers toiled away at making during this time! Yet another kerfuffle came up concerning the wording of the legends on the coins. It had to do with a rule outlined in South Korea’s central banking law. Policies under the Bank of Korea Law for issuing new coins and bills (Article III, Section 2) include the requirement that the legend, “Bank of Korea” in hangul, “한국은행 (han kook eun haeng),” be included on all South Korean banknotes and coins. Probably at Pak Jong-gyu's insistence, the legends on these coins only stated "Republic of Korea" in English and Korean. The legally-inconsistent wording as designed on the coins had shaped up to be a major complication, especially since this problem was left unresolved right up to the beginning of the minting operations. Previously, the designs included both "Republic of Korea" and the legal wording, "Bank of Korea" (top). Only the 42nd World Shooting Championships coins display the legends, "Republic of Korea" in English and Korean. A legal exception made just for these coins was shoved through at the last minute. The very next day after granting this exception to the country's central banking law, the Mint started striking the coins. This commemorative issue, when it was finally set for release, turned out to be the most popular commemorative coin ever issued in South Korea. Never before or since in South Korea has the issue of a coin caused as much of a sensation as the silver coin of this series did when it was first sold out of the main Bank of Korea branch building in Seoul. At exactly 4 a.m. in the morning of the Bank of Korea’s 30th anniversary, Monday, June 12, 1978, numbers of people rushed to the Bank of Korea building from various corners of the surrounding neighborhood. They ran to queue up outside the front doors, released by the lifting of the citywide curfew (one that was enforced from midnight to 4 a.m. nightly in South Korean cities and coastal areas from September 1946 to January 1982). The crowd had flocked to purchase one of the six thousand 5,000 Won silver coins that were to be sold from the Bank building that day. The Bank’s remaining allotment of 12,000 silver coins, to be released the following day, were expected to attract an even larger crowd. What would explain the public’s newfound interest in a commemorative coin when people showed almost no interest in the country's first commemorative coin released three years before? As South Korea placed severe restrictions on precious metals imports, the coin’s silver content probably had something to do with it, and that fact probably played into another phenomenon that was taking place at the time. 5,000 Won silver commemorative In 1978, many Koreans were benefitting from an improved economy, and some households were flush with cash from massive remittances sent home by Korean construction workers in Persian Gulf states, which had contracted Korean businesses to develop their infrastructure. Back in Korea, severe legal restrictions did not allow people many choices for investing any of this new money. Hard assets, such as land, were almost the only options. Indeed, the latter part of the 1970s was characterized by a real estate boom south of the Han River in Seoul in which farmers were becoming millionaires overnight by selling their once-inexpensive farmland to developers. The environment was ripe for the country to experience a “speculation craze.” Real estate was not the only area where this speculation fever existed. Precious metals were another. The coins became an instant magnet for investors when reports surfaced on June 12th about those lucky few who had purchased one of the new silver coins and then quickly sold it within minutes for a hefty profit. So when the 4 a.m. curfew lifted the following morning, all hell broke loose at the Bank of Korea. The Chosun Ilbo reported that pandemonium ensued when upwards of 20,000 people showed up in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 13th in front of the Bank of Korea building. Pushing and shoving resulted in 20 people being injured even before the doors opened. Maintaining order in the situation was impossible, and the planned release of the remaining silver coins for that day was cancelled. The coins were eventually issued via computer-based lottery, with sale offers given to savings account holders at various banks in Seoul. The remaining coins were issued in this fashion.