​Korea to start pilot program next year for coinless society

The Korean central bank will begin a pilot program next year where convenience stores will give change in the form of prepaid cards rather than coins, as part of its plan to make the country a coinless society by 2020.

South Korea will begin a pilot program in the first half of 2017 where convenience stores will give customers change in the form of prepaid cards or transportation cards.

The Bank of Korea will expand to have change added to credit cards or directly to customers' bank accounts it the pilot is proven successful.

The ultimate goal, albeit tentative, is to make the country a "coinless society" by 2020, when all coin-based change can be added to electronic payment systems.

Convenience stores were chosen as most of them already have readers that can recognize transportation cards, allowing the bank to save on costs.

Last year, a total of 144 billion won ($122 million) was spent on producing coins (54 billion won) and paper money, an 18.5 percent increase from the previous year's 121.5 billion won.

The Bank of Korea also spent 3.395 trillion won ($2.9 billion) last year in destroying damaged coins and paper money.

The bank's own survey showed that 50.8 percent of citizens were for a coinless society while 23.7 percent were against.

"The goal right now it to rid of coins altogether but to increase citizens' convenience and save cost by using electronic infrastructure and lower the distribution of coins," said a bank spokesman. "We will expand the program step by step."

Mobile payment is a must now in Korea. Samsung Pay, which processed over 2 trillion won in transactions since its launch next year, has been expanded to Korean department chain Shinsegae.