Korea's dangerous path to cashless society

Oh Jong-gyun, a 35-year-old in Seoul, had an awkward moment when he went to pay for valet service during a blind date last week. Not only was he feeling shy in front of a lady he had just met that evening, Oh also realized that he hadn‘t carried ”real money“ for months.

“I risked losing face, on my first date, to ask her for 3,000 won. Well, she didn’t have it either,” he said.

Oh is one of growing number South Koreans living without physical money as they no longer see the need to carry it around.

As one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world, Asia‘s fourth-largest economy has been swiftly morphing into a cashless society in recent years, backed by its widespread use of smartphones.

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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