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Gold Rush 2.0: South Koreans Snag Gold Bars from Vending Machines and Convenience Stores

In a novel retail twist, gold bars are now just an arm’s reach away for snack-hungry shoppers in South Korea, lined up next to everyday items like kimchi and ramen in convenience stores. As the frenzy for the precious metal reaches new heights in 2024, younger South Koreans are leading the trend, purchasing gold from unlikely places like vending machines and local corner shops.

South Korea’s largest convenience store chain, CU, has partnered with the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation to offer small gold bars in retail settings across the nation. A social media announcement on April 1 from CU introduced shoppers to this shiny new product lineup. Available in weights from 0.1 to 1.87 grams, these gold bars are priced from 77,000 won ($56.4) to 225,000 won ($165.76) and are tailored for various special occasions like birthdays.

The allure of these mini gold ingots is undeniable. According to a report by Chosun Biz, the 1-gram gold bars priced at 113,000 won ($82.81) sold out within just two days. Not to be outdone, another chain, GS25, has begun dispensing tiny gold wafers through vending machines, adding a modern twist to gold trading.

Data from CU’s app shows that young Koreans, particularly those in their twenties, are the most avid buyers, making up over 41% of the total purchases. This demographic shift in gold buying is part of a broader trend across Asia, where gold demand has surged. The World Gold Council notes a 20.2% increase in South Korea’s gold demand over the past year, although the nation’s central bank has not adjusted its reserves since 2013.

Meanwhile, China is experiencing its own gold rush. Young Chinese are increasingly investing in miniature “gold beans,” driven by concerns over the yuan’s weakening against a robust US dollar. In a bid to diversify away from the dollar, the Chinese central bank has been actively increasing its gold reserves.

This burgeoning interest in gold across Asia is echoed by bullish sentiments from Wall Street experts. Economist David Rosenberg sees potential for a 30% increase in gold prices, regardless of short-term economic fluctuations, while analyst Ed Yardeni anticipates an impressive 50% rise by the end of 2025. This modern-day gold rush, fueled by both economic uncertainty and innovative retail strategies, illustrates a unique blend of tradition and modern consumer behavior, making investment in gold more accessible—and appealing—than ever.