The South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry has announced plans to invest around KRW300bn ($267m) to accelerate the growth of online retail in the country.

The decision is based on a shift in consumer shopping behaviour towards digital retail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment, to be made over the next three years, will help retailers build on the e-commerce momentum and facilitate the development of advanced technologies, including drones.

To support complete unmanned delivery services across the country, around 4,000 logistics robots will be distributed by 2023. The government plans to allow delivery robots to operate on pavements from this year.

The government will also conduct around 1,000 delivery drone test runs by next year and aims to create a standardised database to provide information to consumers on around three million products by next year, including information on products containing allergens. There are also plans for new undergraduate and postgraduate courses to train workers to address the growing demand for online retail services. The government aims to train 1,200 such workers by 2026. The government expects to generate more than 20,000 retail jobs to support the growth of online commerce.

Seoul said that it would actively participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on setting international rules on the e-commerce sector and helping local businesses form stronger links with global retailers.

Last year, online platforms contributed to 30% of all sales in South Korea, compared to 24% in the previous year. The total value of online transactions made in the country last year was KRW130tn ($114.4bn), compared with KRW21.7tn ($19.1bn) ten years prior.

This rise in online shopping has been largely attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated safety measures.