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It’s getting more pricey to rent appliances, stream

Minimum wage hike takes hold along with higher materials prices
May 29,2018
After movie tickets and fried chicken, price hikes are spilling over to a range of services.

Renting home appliances, subscribing to after-school academic programs and streaming music are getting more expensive due to hikes in minimum wages and raw material prices.

Kumon, a subscription-based supplementary learning provider, said it will raise its monthly fees by 2,000 won ($1.86), or 6 percent, for subjects such as Korean, English and mathematics to 35,000 won, effective in June. The company cited salary increases for its teachers for the increase, its first in almost eight years.

“Teachers’ wages were frozen for years, even though the minimum wage and general prices rose,” said a Kumon spokesman.

“Half of the hike will go to teachers. It’s an inevitable choice because the cost of paper, the key material for our service, has also gone up 40 percent on-year this year and rent fees for offline Kumon centers around the country got costlier.”

SK Magic, a rental appliance unit of SK, will raise monthly rental fees for its clothes dryers by up to 7,000 won starting June.

The monthly cost will become as expensive as 30,000 won per month, even though charging the fees on affiliated credit cards can reduce the cost by around 10,000 won.

“We get supplies from an original equipment manufacturer in China and raw material price hikes have made the machines more expensive,” the company said.

Other rental services have yet to announce price hikes. The last time Coway, a top player in appliance rentals, raised fees was in 2013.

MelOn, a music streaming service with over 50 percent market share, is considering increasing monthly subscriptions by up to 34 percent from the current 7,900 won to as much as 11,000 won by the end of this year, according to company insiders.

The move comes as the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is trying to revise regulations on music streaming profit sharing so that copyright holders can take a bigger share of revenues from 60 percent to 73 percent. Music streaming services will have their share slashed from the previous 40 percent to 27 percent. The measure is meant to help artists. If MelOn, a unit of Kakao, takes the lead on raising subscriptions, smaller players such as Genie, Naver and Bugs are expected to follow suit.

“We are not in such good shape now,” said a spokesman for one of the streaming services, “the government measure hasn’t taken into consideration streaming service providers.”

Foodstuff price hikes are being seen across different sectors. The hikes began with fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Lotteria and KFC from the beginning of this year.

Major fried chicken franchises such as Kyochon followed suit but they used a gimmick of charging delivery fees of up to 2,000 won, which used to be free.

Then came confectioneries. Crown, a major confectionery company, raised the prices of eight snacks, including Kukhee biscuits, by an average of 12.4 percent on May 21 after its affiliate Haitai administered price increases for five snack products, including Oh Yes! cakes, by an average of 12.7 percent in April.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]