Sunday, January 3, 2010

"iPhone Woes for Foreigners" Symptom of a Larger Problem

I started my newspaper reading this morning with an article in yesterday's Joongang Daily entitled "iPhone Woes for Foreigners."  Since I am a foreigner living in Korea and I recently purchased an iPhone, I read the article with great interest.  I've lived and worked in Korea continuously for the past 13 years and my wife is Korean.  Nevertheless, it was NOT EASY to purchase an iPhone here.
My understanding is that there are approximately one million expatriate workers in Korea now, and that the number is increasing.  Furthermore, I'm reading a lot these days about how the Korean government is seeking to attract not only foreign investment, but more foreign workers to Korea.  Under these circumstances, it seems counter-productive to make it difficult for foreigners to purchase an iPhone.   Those of you interested in the details of this matter can read the Joongang Daily article.
I simply want to note that the iPhone situation is part of a much larger problem relating to language, culture and mind-set.  Think, for example, of the generally dismal state of banking services for foreigners in Korea.  Alternatively, think of the heavy reliance on and satisfaction with Korean language web content and applications (over 70 percent of Koreans using Naver when Korean-language Google is superior for many purposes).
My recommendation:  Korea should begin to offer special services, across the board, for foreigners who are here teaching English, teaching other subjects, working in industry, or otherwise contributing to the economy and society.  If the worry is simply that foreigners will leave Korea with unpaid bills, it seems to me that could be handled for different categories of customers, in accord with the risk, by using a REFUNDABLE deposit system.

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