The Bank of Korea is planning a “cashless society” by 2020. If a shopper buys a 9,500 won item and pays with a 10,000 won banknote, for instance, the shopper will be credited 500 won to his or her prepaid card instead of getting a 500 won coin in change.
The trends are indeed lining up:
According to a central bank survey, Koreans carry on average 1.91 credit cards, 2.03 mobile cards and 1.26 check or debit cards. Four out of 10 picked credit cards as the means of payment they use most, up from three out of 10 the previous year. The ratio of those picking cash, meanwhile, continues to fall.
As Koreans are carrying less cash, with the average standing at 74,000 won last year, down 3,000 won from the previous year, the central bank is also issuing less cash. It released 12.3 percent fewer 10,000 won banknotes last year from the previous year, while the issuance of 5,000 won notes dipped 5.9 percent and 1,000 won bills 3.7 percent.
The country is also sufficiently non-diverse that such a transition could be made without leaving many people without means of payment, in contrast to say the Louisiana Bayou.