South Koreans tap cash-giving apps to help offset rising living costs

SEOUL, April 24 (U.S.): Crowds of people have been strolling seemingly aimlessly around the forecourt of a museum in central Seoul, silently curling up between each other, heads bowed toward smartphones as fingers tap frantically at screens — in the latest money-making trend, Reuters reported.

Walking 10,000 steps, completing tasks like signing up for social media, or just tapping the screen when other users are around can generate up to 10 cents at a time for users of financial services app Toss from South Korean startup Viva Republica.

The viral campaign has seen Toss become a frontrunner in a trend in which companies win users over with loyalty apps offering cash and points, which have grown in popularity in an economy with high youth unemployment and soaring inflation.

A recent survey by job portal Incruit revealed that as many as three out of four adults earn cash through these apps.

“I’ve only earned 150 won ($0.11) so far, but I plan to continue until I can buy coffee or pay for something using the app,” said Baek Na Young, the 27-year-old office worker.

Viva Republica said about 4.4 million users have used Toss’ in-app cash-giving feature since it launched in January, and the number of times people open the app on phones has increased by 30%.

Retiree Han Sun Jae, 77, said he has made about 50,000 won ($37.91) so far through the Toss app.

“My daughter works nearby and she told me that a lot of people were congregating here, and that I could make more money here,” he said outside the Seoul Museum of Art, where office staff gathered at lunchtime based on rumors and gossip of grapes.

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Experts said the trend shows that people are doing their best to help overcome the increasingly dire economic situation.

Consumer inflation was 5.1% in 2022, the highest since 1998, with food and transportation prices rising 5.9% and 9.7%, respectively.

About 497,000 people between the ages of 15 and 29 showed in February that they were on a break from work and not actively seeking work, according to Statistics Korea data, the most since registration began in 2003.

Some experts have warned that exchanging data for a chance to earn pennies may involve sharing sensitive personal information with third parties.

“While the effort to earn pocket money is commendable, it can also make people vulnerable to the use of personal data,” said Lee Eun-hee, a professor of consumer studies at Inha University. “It would be wise to consider both sides of the coin.”


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