( dpa )- Sending gift coupons via text messages has become a multi-million-dollar business for South Korea's largest mobile carrier, SK Telecom, since its launch in December 2006.
Kim Mi-ran, a 20-year-old co-ed, smiles at a text message that she has just received on her mobile phone. It says, "Enjoy an Ice Caramel Macchiato coffee at Starbucks." It was from a male student whom she had met socially, but seldom talks to her.
"I like this way of letting her know my interest in her," grins the male student who sent the gift coupon by phone.
"I would be a little too nervous to call her and say 'hi," he adds.
SK Telecom says that the carrier has almost 300,000 young users a month sending about 1 million dollars' worth of the " gifticon " brand coupons, which are good for sending small gifts like coffee and ice cream via their friends' cellphones .
The service is meant to nurture human relationships, explains Kim Hye -Jin, a spokeswoman for SK Telecom.
"When people are sending a text message to someone else's cellphone , they tend to be more courageous and honest about their feelings. They can talk about something that they would not dare to speak of when you are physically with her or him."
For instance, a man might use the gifticon to send his girlfriend a gorgeous pair of underwear, something he would be too shy to present to her directly, she adds.
Subscribers to SK Telecom can send the gift messages with a few clicks on their cellphone . Others can subscribe to the digital gift service through the company's website.
Small sum gift items top the list of more than 100 gifticon items offered by about 40 franchisers, including Mr Pizza, Baskin Robbins ice cream, Burger King hamburgers and many Korean-branded snacks.