Save money but lose weight with Korean banks

Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:57pm EST
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SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Park Keun-jun is determined to fulfill two resolutions this year: bulk up his bank account but slim down himself.

Enter South Korean banks, with plans to help with both.

"I'd like to bet my money on a bank's savings plan if the bank gives credits to me for not giving up on my New Year's resolutions," said Park, a 32-year-old car designer.

Hana Bank, the banking arm of Hana Financial Group, sells an installment savings product called "S-Line," a Korean word that means an hourglass figure -- just one reflection of the current Korean obsession with being slim and in shape.

The more calories a customer burns, the higher interest rate the bank gives. If a customer loses more than five percent of their weight within a year, or holds a gym membership, the bank grants special rates.

The working-out-for-higher-interest savings account has fetched up 400 billion won ($356 million) from nearly 50,000 customers since 2008.

Other banks take a slightly different tack.

Top lender Kookmin Bank, the banking arm of KB Financial Group Inc, launched a smartphone product, taking advantage of the country's smartphone boom. Customers use this to click on an icon of coffee or a taxi on their smartphone instead of drinking coffee or taking a cab -- and directly deposit money.

"(If I signed up for one of the plans) I would be proud of myself to see more money coming in as a reward for my strict regimen," said 27-year-old office worker Choi Jung-hee.   Continued...

<p>Two overweight boys sit by the pool in Seoul in this July 28, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>