SEOUL -- NHN, the operator of South Korea's popular digital payment system PAYCO, has ventured into the rapidly growing self-service laundry market through investment in an unmanned coin laundry franchise operator.
NHN said in a statement Friday that it secured a 20 percent stake in Korea Laundry, the operator of self-service laundry franchise Wash Enjoy, for five billion won ($4.1 million). Using its digital payment system and internet protocol (IP) camera service, NHN would develop new business models and expand Wash Enjoy's existing business area.
Thanks to the increasing number of single households, South Korea's self-service laundry market favored by young women has grown fast in recent years. There are some 2,700 coin laundries in operation at the end of 2018, up 50 percent from a year ago.
Self-service laundries are normally operated unmanned for 24 hours a day mainly in urban residential areas. To use a laundry machine or a dryer, customers should change money into coins, with single use costing about 5,000 won.
"We wish to organically interlink our business models to create synergy," NHN said, adding it has agreed with Korea Laundry to use Toast Cam, NHN's IP camera service, that would help monitor irregular activities in unmanned laundry shops. NHN plans to apply its smartphone digital payment system to Wash Enjoy's franchise shops so that customers can use phones to pay instead of coins.
NHN, a major game publisher, has aggressively expanded its business spectrum to include artificial intelligence, cloud computing, financial technology and big data. The company changed its name from NHN Entertainment into NHN in April to refresh its image as a total IT services company.
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