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Digital gadgets lose function after short-lived QR code verification scheme

An owner of a restaurant in Seoul’s Jongno-gu dismounts digital devices that had been used for a QR code entry log system on Feb. 28, as authorities announced the lifting of the vaccine pass from March 1. (Yonhap)
An owner of a restaurant in Seoul’s Jongno-gu dismounts digital devices that had been used for a QR code entry log system on Feb. 28, as authorities announced the lifting of the vaccine pass from March 1. (Yonhap)



With the lifting of the IT-based COVID-19 contract tracing scheme, owners of cafes, restaurants, and small and medium-sized shops now ponder over what to do with the digital devices they used for scanning personal QR codes.

Since March 1, the government scrapped electronic contact tracing and vaccine passes in which visitors to public facilities including singing rooms, indoor gyms and residential nursing homes were required to get checked through mobile applications on their smartphones.

The abolition of the program came about nine months after the country adopted the QR code-based electronic entry log in June last year. The log, which recorded personal information such as the visitor’s name, phone number and vaccination status, was intended to break the chains of transmission through rapid identification.

From November, shops using alternate methods such as handwritten paper documents and call-in logs had been asked to unify them to the QR code verification system.

Small business owners feel relieved by the termination of the scanning process, which caused them hassles, particularly during busy hours. The QR log system also placed responsibility for any violations on the owners.

In addition, the short-lived scheme leaves behind a mountain of smartphones and tablet PCs which have now lost their purpose.

Some tablet PCs were placed on sale at secondhand online stores.

“I had to get two tablets abruptly to comply with the virus prevention measure. I sold them on a secondhand online market because they are no longer needed,” said an owner of a Japanese restaurant in Songpa-gu, Seoul.

A pizza restaurant owner surnamed Kim, 47, said she gave a new function to her tablet PC by playing a promotional video on a cashier counter desk.

“I think it’s better to keep it than to sell it at a loss. Plus, I don’t want to be bothered to buy a new one if the government changes its policy again,” she said.

Kim Taik-whan, 40, who runs a small pub in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun, Jongno-gu, said he hoped that the government would keep the QR code technology in place for other purposes, as people have gotten accustomed to the screen procedure.

“I hope we can keep the QR code system so that pubs and bars don’t have to check ID cards to detect minors,” he said.

Starbucks coffee shops are storing digital gadgets provided by the headquarters when the QR code-based program was implemented, according to an employee. Many owners of small cafes and restaurants interviewed by The Korea Herald are also storing their old smartphones and tablets that they had used for the QR code verification system.

In January, the Ministry of SMEs and Startups provided a subsidy for quarantine products to alleviate the burden on small businesses owners due to the vaccine pass.

Up to 100,000 won ($82.24) was given per shop to purchase quarantine items such as QR code verification terminals, hand sanitizers and masks.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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