Paper is passe for tech-savvy South Koreans

A mobile phone user shows off a coupon in Seoul April 29, 2008. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Young, tech-savvy South Koreans are making coupon clipping a thing of the past and turning to their mobile phones instead.

Some of the fastest-growing mobile phone services in the country let retailers send discount coupons and users send gift certificates for anything from lattes to movie tickets through their handsets.

The merchandise vouchers have a barcode embedded in the message. Users show the coupon on the screen and retailers scan the barcode to apply the discount.

“People can actually receive products from places just by showing their phones,” Ryu Mina, a spokeswoman with mobile service provider SK Telecom.

She said people may forget their coupons but always carry their cell phones.

SK Telecom rolled out a service a little more than a year ago called a “gifticon” that allows users to send gift vouchers for items such as convenience store merchandise and pizzas via mobile phones. The sender is billed for the cost of the goods.

South Korean companies started sending coupons via text messages about six years ago, but the service never caught on because most users saw the messages as spam and deleted them.

The main users of the new coupon service with the embedded barcodes are usually in their 20s and younger and often use Internet functions on their mobile phones for communication, according the industry sources.

Reporting by Lee Jiyeon, writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Valerie Lee