Yours truly is on Korea’s Jeju Island for a couple days of R&R.
Jeju’s a special place, quite unlike anywhere else in Korea. The entire island is a massive shield volcano, dominated by the densely forested, often snow-capped peak of Mt. Hallasan, Korea’s highest point at nearly 2,000 meters above sea level. The main cone is surrounded by about 360 smaller parasitic cones, producing a landscape that’s positively surreal, especially when the weather is right.
The island’s spectacular topography, dramatic history and distance from the mainland has resulted in local culture all its own. In recent years, newcomers from the mainland have added hipper, creative touches to the cultural landscape, too, including one of Korea’s best cafe scenes, excellent craft beer and a rich independent publishing sector.
But I digress.
We’ve written a lot here about Jeju Safety Code, the contact tracing app developed by ICONLOOP and the provincial government. ICONLOOP even recently received a commendation from the government of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province for contributing to the province’s COVID-19 quarantine efforts with its blockchain-based contract tracing app Jeju Safety Code.
Having read plenty of press reports and press releases about the app, I knew it was the island’s dominant contract tracing app, akin to Kakao’s service on the Korean mainland.
What I wasn’t expecting was just how ubiquitous Jeju Safety Code is.
It starts at Jeju International Airport. As soon as you leave the baggage claim, there’s a desk set up next to the tourist information desk with a big sign for Jeju Safety Code. The people at the desk will be happy to help you install the Android or iOS app, but if you read Korean, there’s no need — it’s pretty straightforward. When you’re done, the app has not only a QR code reader, but also a record of your vaccination status (it’s still updating my booster status, however. Kakao already displays that record).
You’ll start giving Jeju Safety Code a workout almost immediately. So far, I haven’t walked into a cafe, convenience store or restaurant in Jeju City that doesn’t use it. I feel like I’ve used it about 10 times so far, and the day’s still young.
What I’ve been most impressed with is the user experience. Anyone who has used Kakao’s contact tracing app knows it can be a bit of a pain sometimes. You need to open Kakao, shake your phone (assuming you have that option enabled) to get a QR to appear, and then show that QR code to a reader that will usually read it, but sometimes only after a couple of tries.
With Jeju Safety Code, however, it’s the businesses with the QR codes, usually stickers at the front desk or cashiers, but sometimes all over the place so you don’t have to congregate and create a potential hot spot. Just open the app, point the in-app camera toward the QR code and boom, you’re done. It’s super fast, super easy. Most users probably have no idea they are using blockchain technology
While the app’s default child’s voice announcing you’ve been logged gets a bit annoying, you’re free to change it in the settings. I did.
We’ve been talking about “blockchain’s coming killer app” for as long as I’ve been writing at the Iconist. Well, if an ubiquitous contact tracing app in one of Northeast Asia’s most popular tourist destinations doesn’t qualify, it’s gotta come pretty close.