Apps that allow people to make a little money on the side are growing popular among young people as the coronavirus epidemic drags on.

Some apps pay W40 for every 10,000 steps walked, while others pay W3 for clicking on an ad or W300 for participating in a survey (US$1=W1,117). The only benefit is that they can harvest data which they then hope to sell to advertisers, but many furloughed workers in the hospitality and other service industries are happy to sell their privacy for a little extra money.

One 28-year-old office worker in Incheon turns on his smartphone app on his way to work every day. The app awards him W40 if he walks 10,000 steps a day — not out of concern for his health but because it knows where he is going.

Once he arrives at the office, he turns on another app that pays W1,000 for completing a survey.

He earns W1.8 million a month, but the epidemic has made him anxious about losing his job. He was furloughed for about three months in April and again for two weeks in August and fears he could lose his job entirely. He applied for a savings account that safely siphons off W3,000 of his money a day and downloaded smartphone apps that pay cash.

“If I save W3,000 a day and collect the money from the apps, I can make W600,000 in six months,” he says. “For me, that’s not a small amount of money.”

Another 28-year-old hotel staffer in Seoul has been picking up his smartphone as soon as he wakes up each morning at 8 a.m. An ad appears as soon as he touches the screen, and his phone has an app that disables the lock after watching one ad. That way he accrues up to W5 worth of credit for each ad viewed.

“I installed the app so I could earn W2,000 a day to cover my public transportation fares,” he says. His employer has been furloughing workers for a week at a time in rotation since March.

“My monthly salary shrank from almost W3 million to W2 million. Once I put W1 million into my savings account and pay W100,000 in loan interest plus other expenses, I’m left with almost nothing.”

Job portal Incruit polled 825 people in June and found that 77 percent had cut down on spending and were turning to other sources of income. 

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