|Many people say they are hesitant to both keep W10 coins because they are cumbersome and give them up since they rarely have them. Kim Tae-kyun is a 28-year-old office worker who frequently has to work overtime and take late-night cab rides home. Because of the late hour premium, Kim is often due small amounts of change after paying the cab fare, but he usually refuses W10 coins — they’re just not worth the burden.Of course when he needs to buy a W20 plastic bag at a supermarket, he doesn’t have any W10 coins on hand.To overcome this common dilemma, a Korean company has developed an electronic coin purse. The system lets users put small amounts of change onto transportation fare cards or credit cards with embedded smart chips.For example, if a taxi fare is W12,340 and the passenger pays W13,000, the change of W660 is saved on the transportation fare card. The electronic coin purse provides the system for small deposits and payments via the cards.Ucoin, the system’s developer, said it has signed contracts with 42 taxi companies to implement the system in 4,200 taxis throughout Seoul by October. It is also pushing for a contract with MYbi, a manufacturer of transportation fare cards, to install the system in convenience stores and large retail outlets. If the system takes off, the use of W10 coins might drop sharply.”If the system spreads and the fee paid by participating vendors is low enough, it may be possible to reduce the amount of W10 coins to be issued,” an official from the Bank of Korea said.
The BOK has minted 160 million W10 coins this year alone, but the coins usually end up languishing in piggy banks or drawers since they are inconvenient to carry around. Meanwhile the raw materials needed to mint just one coin cost more than W20, double its face value. The key to the success of the electronic coin purse is how widely companies adopt it. But its prospects are discouraging.
To promote the use of W10 coins, the BOK has required manufacturers of transportation fare cards to develop devices that allow users to save small amounts of money such as W1,000 or less, and required large outlets to offer bonus points for change under W100. Most companies have been unwilling to follow the rules because of the expense of