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[Weekender] Still looking for a calendar? Don't bank on it

Superstition that they bring wealth behind enduring popularity of calendars from financial institutions

Woori Bank's calendar for 2023 (Woori Bank)
Woori Bank's calendar for 2023 (Woori Bank)

Kim Min-ju, a woman living in Mapo-gu, Seoul, visited two local banks -- KB Kookmin Bank and Woori Bank -- for a printed calendar in mid-December, but she could not find one.

"I should have lined up at a bank on Dec. 1 when they started distributing them,” Kim said.

Kim is among those who regret their hesitation.

Many people on Naver's blogs have shared a similar experience of leaving banks empty-handed and also asked for information on local banks with calendars in stock.

“Clients usually start asking for a calendar from November. By (mid-December) most branches probably are out of stock,” a Hana Bank spokesperson said.

“When we began handing out calendars, I often see small business CEOs trying to take as many calendars as possible, saying they are going to gift them to their clients. So we run out of stock within a week,” a bank clerk who wished to be unnamed told The Korea Herald.

“At the end of the year, we see some customers who get really mad at us because we do not have a calendar in stock."

Some customers who could not lay their hands on bank calendars then turn to online secondhand trading platforms.

On South Korea's biggest used goods online marketplace Joonggonara, a specially packaged calendar set for KB Kookmin Bank’s VIP clients -- consisting of a VIP version wall calendar, an ordinary wall calendar, a desk calendar and two notebooks -- goes for about 150,000 won ($115). The VIP calendar is specially made with premium paper.

Ordinary bank calendar prices on the platform range from around 2,000 to 7,000 won.

A growing number of people have ditched traditional paper calendars and opt for mobile apps these days but the popularity of ones printed by banks endures because of a superstition that they are lucky charms that can attract wealth.

“My father-in-law thinks that bank calendars can attract wealth while hospital calendars can attract illness. He told me to replace my calendar from a pediatric clinic with the one from a local bank,” said Yoon, a woman in her late 30s who wished to be identified by her surname.

Some bank calendars also have special themes.

“I didn’t have any interest in bank calendars before but I got one from Woori Bank for 2023 because the singer IU was on it,” a commenter said on a Naver blog.

KB Kookmin Bank’s VIP calendars are also sought after on online marketplaces as they usually feature popular artworks. For 2023, the bank’s wall calendar presents 12 different artworks of Korean artist Jung Young-mo.

Meanwhile, the supply of bank calendars has been steadily decreasing over the last few years and will likely drop further due to local banks’ growing focus on environmental, social and governance, or ESG, issues.

According to industry sources, the top four Korean banks -- KB Kookmin Bank, Shinhan Bank, Hana Bank and Woori Bank -- printed 5.05 million calendars in 2022, down from 5.09 million in 2021.

“Paper is used to print those calendars. So for ESG management, we have been reducing the amount we print,” a KB Kookmin Bank official said.

A Woori Bank official said the overall amount of calendars the lender issued has increased in 2022, after seeing strong demand in 2021, although it printed fewer wall calendars.

The bank maintained that it cares for the environment as the calendars do not use plastic or other environmentally unfriendly materials like polycoated paper, making them easy to recycle.



By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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