South Korea begins phasing out coins in move towards cashless society

World Today

South Korea, already among the least cash-dependent countries in the world, has started a trial to phase out coins. Officials said the move could ultimately lead to a cashless society.

CGTN’s Jack Barton reports.

South Korea begins phasing out coins in move towards cashless society

South Korea begins phasing out coins in move towards cashless society

South Korea, already among the least cash-dependent countries in the world, has started a trial to phase out coins. Officials said the move could ultimately lead to a cashless society. CGTN’s Jack Barton reports.

Heading to work each day, Kong Yoojeong always brings along at least some of the change she’s accumulated to buy her ticket.

It’s not exactly convenient, but it’s a way to stop South Korea’s low denomination coins from piling up.

“At the end of the day, at the end of travels, you always have a bunch of coins in your carry bag or something like that, or in your house, in your car, in your pocket, in any kind of bag, there are coins everywhere,” Yoojeong said.

That’s why South Korea is now trialing a scheme at certain stores across the country that aims to phase out the use of coins.

Instead of receiving back change at the counter, the money is deposited onto prepaid cards already widely used in South Korea.

Known as T-Money, they can be used to pay for anything from a taxi or train to a carton of milk. Mobile phone bank accounts can also be used.

Some store owners worry that scrapping coins may hurt the elderly, many of whom are still low tech and coin friendly, but overall the trial seems well received.

Convenience is one factor and cost in another. Last year alone the government reportedly spent the equivalent of $47 million minting coins.

“If you print a coin it is actually more expensive than the face value of the coin so if you print more coins its more expensive and I think more and more coins just disappear so it will become more and more costly to print those coins,” Kim Bowon, a professor at the Kaist Business School said.

The trial is being conducted by the Bank of Korea, which estimates only 20 percent of transactions here are being settled with cash.

Officials at the bank said there is a good chance the trial to phase out coins could ultimately lead to South Korea becoming the world’s first cashless society.