South Korea is the next country looking to go cashless. That in itself may not surprise most people, but the way the government is going about things will raise a lot of questions. It appears the current plan is to force people to hand over all of their physical currency to the central bank. This will not happen overnight, but physical coins are expected to be out of circulation by 2020.
South Korea Will Use An Aggressive Cashless Strategy
Various countries around the world are looking at different ways to go cashless in the coming years. Using physical cash can be a burden for both consumers and retailers, while only adding more security risks as well.0. But in most cases, the real reason for going cashless is to make people even more dependent on banks for all of their daily expenses.
The central bank of South Korea is no different in that regard, as the institution unveiled its plan to enforce a cashless society over the next decade. First of all, they will eliminate all coins from circulation, which they intend to achieve by 2020. Quite an optimistic view, but then again, South Korea is a very different culture compared to most other countries in the world.
One thing to keep in mind is how the removal of coins from circulation will affect retail prices for goods and services. It is doubtful prices will be rounded down anytime soon, and more expensive goods and services are a far more likely scenario. Whether or not the South Korean population will like that change, remains to be seen.
To facilitate these changes, the Central Bank of Korea wants consumers to deposit loose changes onto the national T-Money cards. These electronic travel passes can be used for all forms of transportation, including taxi rides. Additionally, several thousand convenience stores in the country accept T-Money as a payment option.
It has to be said; South Korea may be one of the regions where going cashless will not be a significant change. In fact, there are more credit cards in circulation than citizens. Furthermore, only one in five payments made nationwide occurs through paper money and coins. Phasing out coins should not be a big challenge, but the goal of 2020 may be a bit too optimistic.
But it appears there is another reason to get rid of physical coins. Credit Finance Institute’s Lee Hyo-Chan told CNBC how it costs more than 10 won to create a 10 won coin. All of the costs associated with the mass minting of coins adds up to over US$40m per year. Additionally, collecting, managing, and circulation of coins incurs, even more, costs.
Getting rid of cash is a cost-cutting effort, which is understandable. At the same time, banks should not be given even more power of the financial ecosystem than they have right now, as they already have a firm grip on people’s money. Centralization of financial power is never the answer, and going cashless will not necessarily be beneficial to the average consumer from a financial perspective.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock