February 15, 2011 / 2:13 AM / 7 years ago

Save money but lose weight with Korean banks

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

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.

Woori Bank sells a bicycle fixed deposit, allowing clients to benefit from vowing to ride a bicycle to commute, as communicated with a written statement, or swiping its credit card for public transportation. The bank also provides free bicycle insurance.

For Park, who wants to save money for several years but fears burning a hole in his wallet by following his fitness resolution since many gym memberships in Seoul are expensive, such banks’ plans give him guarded hope.

“They all sound very good,” Park said, though he added that he’d have to double check and make sure the plans helped him lose where he wants to -- and only there.

Reporting by Ju-min Park, Editing by Elaine Lies

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