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S. Korea nears top among APEC states in use of digital finance

South Korea was No. 1 among states in the Asia-Pacific region in the utilization of digital finance such as online shopping and internet banking, data showed Tuesday.

But it also showed a sharp digital divide, with relatively large differences according to age and income.


According to the Asian Digital Transformation Index report published by the Economic Intelligence Unit and MasterCard, Seoul’s portion of customers with no experience online shopping stood at 24 percent. The figure was second-lowest among the 18 respondent states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, trailing New Zealand’s 19.9 percent.

It also showed that South Koreans had more digital finance experience than its peer countries with higher national incomes. The proportion of those with no digital finance experience for Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan were 43.4 percent, 46.8 percent and 51.9 percent, respectively.

The digital affinity here was highest among the younger age brackets, with 89.4 percent of those 35 or younger saying they have experienced digital finance. This was highest among the respondent states -- more than 10 percentage points greater than runners-up China and New Zealand.

The digital experience index for the elderly population aged 55 or more stood at 38.4 percent, third-highest out of 18, but falling way below the youth group’s index.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy also saw a large gap between different income groups. The top 20 percent in income marked 92.5 percent in digital finance experience, while the lowest 20 percent lingered at 48.6 percent.

The gap between diametrically opposed income brackets was 43.9 percent, fifth-highest among respondent states, behind Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.

“In order to realize true digital democracy, the priority is to find a solution to the digital isolation of senior citizens,” said Rama Sridhar, MasterCard’s executive vice president for digital and emerging partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region.

By Bae Hyun-jung (