REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Asia Pacific

The Republic of Korea was an early innovator in IP, with one of the longest running IP systems in the world. Despite this long history, Korea’s IP landscape is still developing.

Korea’s CD/ATM network dates back to 1988. Operated by Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute (KFTC), it has provided near-immediate payments since its inception and near-24/7 operations (00:05—23:55) since 2007. Transactions on the network are typically processed within one to two seconds. In prior iterations of the network, it could only be accessed via physical channels such as bank branches and ATMs. However, the scope of participants has expanded and protocols have been standardized, allowing end users to access the CD/ATM network via mobile phone authentication since 2007.

Korea also has the Electronic Banking System (EBS), sometimes known as HOFINET. EBS is a domestic retail payments system that processes customers’ fund transfers and cash withdrawals in real time. It operates 24/7/365, and users are only required to provide the recipient’s bank account number. The solution is available to both individuals and corporate customers. Designed to overcome certain accessibility limitations of the CD/ATM network, EBS can be accessed via internet and mobile banking, mobile wallets and physical channels such as ATMs and bank branches.

Timeline

MARKET DEVELOPMENT

ACCEPTANCE
  • Consumers
  • Banks
  • Merchants
  • Billers

TOTAL PARTICIPANTS

ALL

domestic banks

Population banking level

6.41

Number of debit, credit and charge cards per adult

258

Index to global average

F

Fully banked

Key statistics

1988

IP launch year

Immediate payments types

Single instance

Initiation & authorization

Bank account

Proprietary

Message standard

Transactions

5.5b

2019

7.7b

2024f

6.9%

F5 Yr CAGR

51%

% of adults who have a mobile wallet and have used it in the past year

Share of volumes by payments instrument

Transactions

2019
2024

Spend (USD)

2019
2024
  • Paper-based payments
  • Electronic payments
  • Immediate payments

Immediate payments volume and its share in overall NON-PAPER-BASED transactions, 2014-24f

% of total electronic payments transaction volume

Insight

The Republic of Korea has a relatively well utilized and popular IP scheme, with 9% share of transactions as of 2019. However, it seems to be used more often for high-value transactions, and less often for traditional IP payments. Aggressive growth isn’t predicted at present, but there is still a lot of potential for accelerated growth in the coming years — providing a series of changes or innovations are made.

For example, IP capabilities should be integrated into mobile wallets, which are quite popular in the market with over 50% adoption. Additionally, there should be more education to raise consumer awareness of IP capabilities. At present, South Koreans are heavily reliant on payment cards, with adults having 6.41 cards each on average. These citizens would need a compelling reason to switch from cards, and convenience would likely provide that justification. If the network grows to support additional initiation methods and payment types, IP will be a highly convenient payment type and volumes will likely take off.

The current high transaction volumes and share of paper-based payments within the market provide ample opportunities to switch to IP, and it is reasonable to assume that IP will cannibalize those payment types first.

ACI’s take

Korea’s financial institutions are seeking growth across Asia, especially in countries where Korean corporate customers are expanding their footprint, or where most Korean travelers visit.

Accordingly, cross-border payment demands are growing. To facilitate this, leading Korean financial institutions are pursuing interoperability of QR-based IP with other Asian countries.

As with all cross-border expansion plans, there’s a regulatory minefield to walk through here — as well as a number of technical challenges regarding interoperability. For cost-effective time to market and global/regional compliance, the country’s financial institutions should adopt globally proven payment solution packages, rather than relying on proprietary homegrown systems.

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