[Weekender] How far off is the ‘cashless society’?

[Weekender] How far off is the ‘cashless society’?


For 35-year-old office worker Kim Seong-soo, carrying a wallet loaded with cash or plastic is a thing of the past. 

In Pangyo Techno Valley, where he works, he can easily buy a cup of coffee and get a haircut without any cash or cards -- as long as he brings his phone.

The tech cluster, located south of Seoul in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, is often called the South Korean equivalent of California’s Silicon Valley. To access any service in the area, all Kim needs to do is place his phone near one of the card terminals installed in every store. The Samsung Pay app on his smartphone does the rest, and the payment is automatically charged to his credit card or debited from his bank account.

“Me and my colleagues have gone completely wallet-less since working here,” said Kim, who works at a mobile app company. “Carrying a wallet is just risky and bothersome in Pangyo.”

A cashless lifestyle is not a phenomenon confined to Pangyo. An increasing number of consumers and business owners in Korea are showing a preference for digital payments over banknotes or cards.

According to the Bank of Korea, consumer cash transactions are declining significantly as more people are choosing mobile payment options.

Its poll of 1,100 adults conducted between October and December last year shows people carried an average of 78,000 won ($64) on any given a day, as compared with 116,000 won three years earlier.

About 40 percent of the respondents said because of mobile payment platforms, they felt little need to carry cash.

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