[FORUM]Buy a cyber purse for cyber cashDid you have a warm-hearted Lunar New Year holiday? The Internet and digital age has changed the Lunar New Year. People check traffic conditions in real time with cell phones to help reduce the time to reach their hometowns. They kill time in the car playing games on cell phones. They buy gifts and food for the memorial service on the Internet and send greeting cards with music and pictures by cell phone. What was the most peculiar and thrilling to children among New Year gifts was cyber money, virtual money exchanged over the Internet that goes by names like “acorn,” “silver coin,” “star” and “turban shell.” This digital money was given as a gift during the Lunar New Year.
Cyber money is used like real money to buy items on Web sites or to play online games. The cyber money called “acorn” is indispensable for users of Cyworld, personal mini-home pages that are popular among young people in their teens and 20s. An “acorn” is 100 won (12 cents).
Young people running personal rooms on the Internet feverishly decorate their Web pages beautifully and sensually. They spend cyber money on settings and music, and furniture and props for the cyber living room where their avatars, symbolic figures, live. To buy an expensive setting for a week, they have to pay 15 acorns worth 1,500 won. This price is pretty burdensome to young people because it has an expiration date. Complaints about expensive prices for these virtual items are high.
You think they are crazy? You should try to understand them. To this generation, there is almost no distinction between reality and the cyber world. They think that the virtual world on the Internet is reality too. There arose a fever of decorating personal rooms on the Internet particularly in Korea because Koreans prefer to have emotion-based encounters. To show off their rooms on the Internet and draw more visitors to their sites, they spend cyber money on decorations.
Thanks to this fever, the Cyworld company has achieved great success, posting 48 billion won in annual profit by selling 150 million won worth of acorns per day last year. Cyber money is issuing a challenge to real money.
Just before the Lunar New Year, “Scout,” an online job-hunting site, conducted a survey of 800 young employees, asking what gift they would like to receive from their bosses. After cash, cyber money ranked second, accounting for 21 percent. Cyber money outranked gift certificates or being treated with meals or drinks. Moreover, elementary school students are said to prefer receiving cyber money as a New Year gift to real money because they need to get permission from their parents to change real money to cyber money.
Cyber money plays a critical role in the popularity of online games in Korea. The winner in the online games, including Internet poker, earns cyber money. Also, cyber money is needed to buy weapons for the online games. Some weapons are purchased or sold for millions of Korean won. This game money is not allowed to be cashed in, but through hundreds of game money brokers nationwide, it is exchanged for cash expediently. There are estimates that 50 billion won in game money is exchanged daily. Given the situation, online games using cyber money actually are similar to gambling with real money. This has caused serious social problems such as a huge amount of cyber money being taken away by computer technology.
At the end of last year, an Australian youth became the topic of conversation because he bought a virtual island on an Internet game for 28 million won. He meant to sell the virtual island in lots and charge entrance fees to visitors.
There could be bright and dark sides to cyber money, but cyber money being considered money now, we should ponder how to make money on the Internet in addition to our occupation in reality. There could come a time when people will be earning more income from the Internet than from their real jobs.
There have also been successful cases of online shops run by one person, including the case in which a single woman recorded 100 million won in monthly clothing sales on an Internet shopping mall. A system that enables individuals to run a business on an Internet blog has recently started. Please prepare another purse to earn extra cyber money from the New Year on. But you should earn it legitimately.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of digital news of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Il