The Korea Herald


Banks ramp up services for growing foreigner market

By Choi Ji-won

Published : June 16, 2024 - 15:34

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Shinhan Bank's headquarters in Jung-gu, Seoul. (Shinhan Bank) Shinhan Bank's headquarters in Jung-gu, Seoul. (Shinhan Bank)

South Korean banks are bolstering their services for foreigners to tap into the rapidly expanding foreign customer market.

Shinhan Bank recently pioneered a service among local commercial banks that allows foreign residents in Korea to conveniently apply for new check cards online through its mobile app SOL Bank.

With its newly implemented foreign identification verification system, foreigners aged 17 or older with valid domestic identification documents, like an alien registration card or domestic residence registration card, can access the service.

Shinhan is not alone in its efforts to cater to foreign residents, whose numbers are rebounding following declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, Hana Bank launched its first "Culture Bank" in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, to meet the needs of the city’s fast-expanding foreign community. Located next to the bank's Cheonan Station branch, the center provides essential services, such as a free medical clinic, multilingual libraries and various support programs.

Meanwhile, Hana Bank's Cheonan Station branch is part of its network of 16 foreigner-specialized branches. It ensures language proficiency among staff for effective communication and offers Sunday operations to accommodate foreign laborers.

Hana Bank has led digital banking services for foreigners as well. It was the first to launch a global banking app, Hana EZ, for foreign customers in 2019 and went on to pioneer mobile account opening in 2021. In March, it introduced a digital financial certificate in 16 languages on its global banking app, enhancing the digital banking experience for foreigners.

In November, Woori Bank revamped its Woori Won Global mobile banking app, adding services in 17 languages and introducing enhanced international remittance features and support services. In addition, Woori expanded its Global Investment WON Center, focusing on foreign direct investment, with a second branch opening in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, in March, following the first branch in Gangnam, southern Seoul, last July.

In February, KB Kookmin Bank introduced a departure guarantee payment service at Incheon Airport, allowing foreign workers leaving Korea to receive their severance pay directly at the airport or have it transferred to their overseas account within 14 days.

NongHyup Bank, which dispatches foreign-language-speaking staff to selected branches, is preparing to launch online account opening services.

According to Statistics Korea, the population of foreigners aged 15 or over in Korea reached 1.43 million in May 2023, marking a significant 10 percent on-year increase, the largest since 2012. During the pandemic, the number stagnated at 1.33 million in 2020-2021 and declined by 28,000 in 2022.

The number of foreign customers at local banks has been recovering. Data from the nation's five major commercial banks — Shinhan, KB Kookmin, Hana, Woori and NongHyup — indicates that they collectively gained approximately 374,000 new foreign customers last year, nearly doubling the 198,000 recorded in 2021.