SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Korea Bizwire) – The Bank of Korea announced Thursday a pilot project to allow convenience store customers to charge their prepaid public transportation cards using spare change, the first step forward to a “coinless society.”
According to representatives, the BOK will begin a selection process of convenience store franchises that will take part in the endeavor, which will launch sometime in the first half of 2017. The cost of the project is expected to be minimal, officials said, considering that stores are already equipped with devices for charging prepaid cards.
By doing so, customers will be rid of the hassle of carrying around coins, while the BOK will be able to save billions on minting coins each year.
In 2015, the BOK spent 144 billion won ($123.2 million) to print banknotes and mint coins, an increase of 18.5 percent from 121.5 billion won in 2014. Specifically, 90 billion won was spent on banknotes, an 11.5 percent jump from the previous year, and 54 billion won on coins, an increase of 32.4 percent.
Currently, there are coins available in 500 won, 100 won, 50 won, and 10 won denominations. The issuing of 5-won and 1-won coins stopped altogether in 2006.
Regardless of their abundance, a recent BOK survey of 2,500 Korean adults revealed that 46.9 percent were unwilling to use their coins, despite 62.2 percent saying they had coins in their possession. Survey data also showed that 50.8 percent approved of a coinless society, which was more than twice the figure of those against it (23.7 percent).
The BOK also said on Thursday that its next initiative will include a service offering direct account transfers of coin change at a greater number of service outlets, including supermarkets and pharmacies. Officials plan to continue expanding the programs to ultimately achieve a coinless society by the year 2020.
“We’re not trying to get rid of coins altogether,” said an official. “We’re trying to use our electronic finance infrastructure to diminish the distribution of coins, in order to reduce public inconvenience and save on social costs.”
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)