Nothing is Useless in the World
Nothing is Useless in the World
  • Choi Song Bojeong, Kwon Jung Eunseo
  • 승인 2020.11.02 09:55
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''Hello, you're here to buy this, aren't you?'' ''Yes, that's right. Here's what we agreed on.'' ''Thank you. Hope you get lots of use out of it!'' Many people will recall their own similar experiences reading that dialogue. Nowadays it's hard to find people who have never experienced buying or selling something secondhand. A secondhand exchange can be anything from trivial items such as books, clothes, and bags to large products such as cars. The exchange is always met with friendly smiley faces on both sides. From the moment they agree to the exchange to the end of the trade, both parties enjoy the charm of a secondhand deal.


Where are your secondhand items?

A secondhand transaction involves the buying and selling of secondhand items. Sellers of these used items engage in transactions in order to dispose of an item efficiently, and buyers purchase used items they wish to acquire at affordable prices. Secondhand transactions benefit both sellers and buyers, and the transactions take place on various media platforms. Joonggonara, which was founded on December 10, 2003, is an online community for secondhand transaction. It currently has about 18.45 million members. A seller uploads a posting of the items they wish to sell, and interested buyers contact the seller directly to arrange for an exchange. Danggeun Market, another platform that was launched in 2015, provides additional services that support secondhand transactions among people in the neighborhood. While it is similar to the Joonggonara, exchanges on Danggeun Market can only be made among users who are within a 6 kilometers radius of each other. SnoWe, an online community at Sookmyung Women's University, operates Cheongpa Market which assists with secondhand transactions among Sookmyungians. Cheongpa Market, which is only accessible by Sookmyungians, ensures safe transactions as it verifies the identities of users. In these platforms, various items such as clothes, electronics, and books are being bought and sold.
With the number of people engaging in secondhand transactions rapidly increasing, secondhand transaction platforms have grown to keep up with the pace. On July 4, the industry said that sales in secondhand transaction markets would reach around 20 trillion won.1) In other words, secondhand transactions are now common everyday commercial transactions. According to an announcement by Nielsen Korea Click, a market research firm, the number of smartphone users in Korea using secondhand transactions apps such as Joonggonara has reached 10.9 million as of June, which equates to about 26.9% of all smartphone users.2) The finding suggests that one in four smartphone users have a secondhand transaction application on their phone. The latest business reports of these platforms also show increases in secondhand transaction application usage. Joonggonara reported an increase in membership of 4% from 22.6 million in January to 23.57 million in August, and it also reported 300,000 secondhand items being registered daily. Danggeun Market has also reported it has 8 million monthly users and 8.2 million transactions were completed as of June, which is double the number recorded in January.3) These figures highlight the popularity of secondhand transactions. Even TV programs have capitalized on the trend. JTBC's <Traveling Market>, which ended on August 9, had celebrities make transactions with ordinary people, and this brought the trend even closer to people's lives.



Stepping stones for the popularity of secondhand transactions

Secondhand transactions have become popular for various reasons, one of which is the change in modern society consumption trends, and the causes for the current change include the boom in the sharing economy attitude and the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. A sharing economy refers to the economic activities of lending and borrowing rather than owning, and there are a variety of shared economy services that people can take advantage of such as cars, fashion items, and office spaces. The popularization of shared economy services has changed the public's negative perception of secondhand items. The public once felt secondhand items were unpleasant because they had once been owned by another person, so people used to want to buy new items and have first ownership. However, attitudes have changed towards secondhand items, and people are being more rational when making purchases, which ultimately led to a change in consumption trends. Moreover, the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic is another factor that has caused consumption trend changes. COVID-19 is not showing signs of dissipating, and many industries have taken heavy blows to profits. In the midst of an economic recession, the demand for secondhand items rather than new ones has increased, and the desire to sell unused items as a way of easing economic burdens has increased. As such, the recession has sprouted this new consumption trend, and people do not have to open their wallets wide in order to enjoy maximum satisfaction from their purchases. Together these reasons have given rise to secondhand transactions and created a new type of consumption during the economically hard times.
The rise in secondhand transactions corresponds to the MZ generation. The MZ generation means anyone born in the early 1980s to early 2000s (M) and in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s (Z). This MZ generation has been the major consumer group, especially in industrial sectors that lead trends in fashion and consumption. People in the MZ generation value experience and pursue consumption based on personal tastes and interests, and secondhand transactions are the means by which they can satisfy their wants and needs. A survey by UNIVTOMORROW Twenty Institute on March 20 showed that 56.3% of the MZ generation has made a secondhand transaction, clearly demonstrating that secondhand transactions are satisfying the needs of MZ generation. Growing up in a relatively rich environment and having had diverse experiences, MZ generation values experiences and pursues value-oriented consumption. Through secondhand transactions, they find an item that meets their wants or needs, enjoy the purchase, and then resell it once it is no longer of value for them. This sell-resell culture drives secondhand transactions. The MZ generation uses this culture as a means of investment. They make purchases and then sell items to make new purchases. In fact, BungaeJangter, a leading secondhand transaction app, reported a 43% first-quarter rise in transactions compared to the previous year due to the growing resell culture.4) As such, resell culture has brought interest in secondhand transactions, and the consumption trend of MZ generation is also causing secondhand transaction platforms to expand and evolve.
In addition, the development of online platforms supporting secondhand transactions has also brought about growth in usage. Users of secondhand transaction platforms want an environment that allows for a smooth transaction, so platforms have begun to evolve to meet that need. For example, Danggeun Market now has a function called 'Manner temperature' that monitors a user's message response rate and informs users of a desired rate of re-transaction. This helps build trust among users. The effort to provide more convenience has attracted society's middle-aged, who once shied from their use, to take interest in secondhand transactions. Unlike the MZ generation, who are familiar with digital environments, middle-aged people can have difficulty with secondhand transactions. The new measures and functions on platforms ease their difficulties. One example of this is the transaction simplification process. In the case of Danggeun Market, the process of installing a certificate or registering a credit card was removed so that middle-aged people could engage in a transaction easily. Based on this convenience, Danggeun Market is known for a slogan "A Danggeun Market that my mom can use." As a result, the number of users aged 45 and older who have difficulty using mobile apps increased to account for 28% of all users as of May. This increase led to further development of platforms. Kim Sooha, a college student who recently introduced a secondhand transaction platform to her mother, said, "My mother is not good at using online applications, but she is making good use of the secondhand transaction one because the platform is simple and convenient." As Kim's example shows, the development of helpful measures and features on secondhand transaction platforms has spurred interest among the middle-aged.

Manner Temperature which shows the attitude of transaction


Despite the collapse of trust

Even though an increasing number of people have enjoyed secondhand transactions, crimes regarding this continue to occur. In particular, fraud, the most common criminal activity with secondhand transactions, continues. Most victims are those who have prepaid for an item. After sending the cost of the item, the seller disappears and cannot be contacted or the item arrives damaged or is different than agreed upon. The number of victims of fraud has increased side-by-side with the increase in the number of non-face-to-face secondhand transactions because of COVID-19. According to the financial fraud prevention provider platform TheCheat, the number of victims of secondhand transaction fraud in the January-August period was about 172,000. Last year, during the same period, the number was about 148,000. The cases have increased about 16.7% compared to last year.5) With the social distancing policy being enforced, Un-tact transactions are increasing, and crimes are also increasing at similar rates. To prevent this, The National Police Agency said they held a conference with major secondhand trading companies such as BungaeJangter, Danggeun Market, and Joonggonara on September 11. Together they discussed crime prevention measures and ways to block fake secondhand trades. In addition, BungaeJangter has offered to set up its own secure payment service called Bungae Pay to prevent crimes and assist with exchanges without fear of damage. Both the government and companies are working to guarantee safe secondhand transactions. However, more thorough security and policies are needed given that fraud has not fully been solved yet.
Along with the problem of fraud, there is also another concern, obscene messages being exchanged in secondhand transactions. Recently, sexual harassment problems have been pointed out on Danggeun Market. One anonymous trader received an unpleasant message after posting a set of unused underwear on Danggeun Market. The text said, ''I'll buy it right away if you wear it once.'' The trader said, ''I felt bad all day after reading the message. I did a quick investigation and found that many people receive similar upsetting messages. The person who sent me the obscene message is already notorious, and the person's ID is known among sellers in Danggeun Market."6) More than a few people have been harmed by this trader known to make repeated upsetting text messages. Under the current law, obscene messages received while engaging in direct shopping transactions can be reported and the person can be charged with indecent use of telecommunication media. The law is applicable to cases when someone feels sexually humiliated by a perpetrator on communication media, and if found guilty, the criminal can be sentenced up to 2 years in prison or a 5 million won fine. However, the communications must be repeated, so it is not always possible to file a report. These cases are typically handled within the company. Even though law exists to punish crimes committed during online secondhand transactions, it has not been easy to invoke the law. As transactions will continue to grow, it is necessary to establish more intensive legislation to deter crime.


Conversations of  secondhand transaction obscene messages


Despite the problems, secondhand transactions are continuing, and to better cope with potential crime, secondhand transaction companies are creating new transaction methods. Parabara, a startup company, created a non-face-to-face vending machine called 'Parabox' to sell users' used items. It looks to minimize the risk of fraud in online secondhand transactions or other crimes occurring during direct transactions. People input their phone number, a rough description of the item for sale, the price they want for the item, and the item itself on the vending machine. Buyers can obtain the item directly from the vending machine Parabox.7) This method of transaction is quite suited to the COVID-19 circumstance, which necessitates a trade without meeting. It also resolves some of the damaging factors and inconvenience of doing online secondhand exchanges. In addition, Joonggonara opened 60 offline stores in August, and said that it would differentiate itself from rival shops by making offline stores a 'base' for secondhand transactions. They have also developed ways to safely exchange items at the offline shops without having to meet each other, which it believes will eliminate problems with current online secondhand exchanges.8) Secondhand trading platforms are developing plans to ensure safety and security because it is expected that more and more people will do secondhand transactions.



For a peaceful trade

Secondhand transactions are continuing to rise and are changing people's perceptions of used items, largely due to the propensity of the MZ generation, leading consumers and uses of online secondhand trading flatforms. However, a safe secondhand transaction environment has yet to be fully built, so stronger legal sanctions and measures are needed to ensure safe peaceful secondhand transactions. In addition, new forms of secondhand transactions have emerged and companies are creating new strategies for safe transactions. Given the bright prospects of secondhand transactions, the trend is expected to continue to grow in popularity.


1) Lee Jihyo, ""I've Been Used Once"....Secondhand Transactions Exceeds 20 Trillion Won", Korea Business News, July 14, 2020

2) Lee Harin, "'Secondhand Transaction Boom', Apps like Danggeun Market and Bungaejangter Are Booming Due To COVID-19", Dailyhankook, September 3, 2020

3) Shin Mookyung, "Growing Secondhand Transaction Market…10 Million Monthly Uses in Danggeun Market", Donga Ilbo, September 10, 2020

4) Park Seungwan, "Bungaejangter, First-Quarter Business Volume 'the Largest Ever'…"the Effects of Resell Culture by MZ Generation"", Korea Business News TV, June 2, 2020

5) Son Sungbae, "A 16.7% Increase From the Previous Year's∙∙∙Second-Hand Delivery Fraud in the Midst of COVID-19", Gyeonginilbo, September 4, 2020

6) Ra Yejin, "[What's the Obscene Message on the Danggeun Market?] X-Rated Buyers Who Demand 'a Worn Photograph'", Economist, August 3, 2020

7) Kim Jungwoo, "Unstable Secondhand Deals, Now Secure With Vending Machines.", Hankyung Business, August 19, 2020

8) Park Jaesuk, "Joonggonara Sells Cell Phones, Computers, Tablet PCs…The Reason They Went To an Offline Store [Unboxing]", The Herald Business, September 20, 2020


Choi Song Bojeong / Reporter
Kwon Jung Eunseo / Reporter

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