Visa International has announced plans for a major smart card trial in the Yoido financial district of Seoul.

An initial 60,000 cards are to be issued by late 1999 in what is described as the beginning of a five- to six-year nationwide conversion to chip cards.

The initiative would include multifunctional credit, debit, and loyalty cards within the Visa Smart framework.

Six card issuers, accounting for more than 90% of the South Korean market, would be involved at the start: KEB Credit Service Co. KLB Credit Card Co., Kookmin Credit Card Co., BC Card Co., LG Credit Card Co., and Samsung Card Co.

Other Visa member banks and credit card companies are to join in 2000.

The program is "a major initiative for Visa International and the Korean payments industry," said Kim Young Chong, the card association's country manager for Korea. "Our members will be able to take advantage of chip technology to offer their customers more value-added functions such as loyalty programs ... and in the process strengthen relationships with current and new customers."

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