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Several apps put flea markets in your pocket

Dec 20,2018
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A screen capture of BTS goods sold on the Bunjang app. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
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Flea market apps are making it safer and easier to buy used stuff from strangers in Korea.

Bunjang, or Bungae Jangteo, released in 2010, was the country’s first secondhand marketplace app. It is the country’s most downloaded: 10 million downloads as of last October. Every month, Bunjang lists around 1.5 million used goods and processes about 27 billion won ($23.9 million) worth of transactions.

Security measures that protect users against scams are a key feature that makes the app so attractive to users.

Bunjang’s payment system, for example, holds onto the payment until the article is safely delivered to the buyer. Only then does it transfer the payment into the seller’s account. This prevents scammers from accepting payments and not sending the promised goods or sending defective ones.

Bunjang also offers users the option of getting insurance for purchases. If a buyer purchases insurance, which costs 2.4 percent of the value of the transaction, they can be reimbursed up to 1 million won if something goes wrong with the transaction.

Being able to check sellers’ reviews adds an extra level of safety. When users click on a seller’s profile, they can read comments about past transactions. An in-app messaging system within Bunjang also supports easy communication between sellers and buyers, making it unnecessary for the parties to exchange private information like phone numbers.

Daangn Market, released in 2015, is a peer-to-peer mobile marketplace for people living in the same neighborhood. The app’s founders both worked for Kakao, one of Korea’s leading tech companies.

Many of the transactions on this platform occur face-to-face. Toys, women’s and children’s clothing are some of the most popular items traded on this platform, which earned a reputation for reliability, especially among stay-at-home moms. The app also connects recruiters with job seekers, specializing in such simple jobs as tutoring, babysitting and pet-sitting. In April, the company received a 4.5 billion won investment from SoftBank Ventures.

Joonggonara is a flea market platform that began as a blog on Naver in 2003. Though an app of the same name has been created, the blog is still far more active, with nearly 17 million registered users.

The rising popularity of secondhand apps is a worldwide phenomenon. Global peer-to-peer marketplace start-ups like America’s OfferUp, Japan’s Mercari and China’s Zhuanzhuan have won over investors and gained unicorn status, or valuations over $1 billion.

In Japan, flea market apps have become so popular that a new term - hintech - was created to refer to the activity of selling personal belongings for money. Hintech is a portmanteau of the Japanese word for poverty, hinkon, and technology.

In Korea, goods related to K-pop idol groups like BTS, Wanna One and GOT7 are the most traded on these flea market apps, which are especially popular with users in their teens and twenties. Limited edition goods like signed CDs and light sticks used at concerts are in high demand.


BY HA SUN-YOUNG [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]