Monday, August 11, 2014

Is Korea's mobile payment market "on the move"?

An interesting article this morning in The Korea Joongang Ilbo, headlined "Mobile pay market is on the move."  But is it really? As noted by the article, "With more customers using mobile finance services, a battle has begun in the banking and telecommunications world. KakaoTalk, the nation’s largest messenger app, plans to begin handling mobile transactions and payments as early as next month. China’s largest online payment company, Alipay, also is working to become an electronic prepayment issuer under Korean law. Financial companies are scrambling to secure customers by partnering with KakaoTalk, while at the same time continuing to develop their own electronic purses."  The article was accompanied by a graphic, included with this post (click to see a full size version) that shows the recent increase in number of registered mobile banking users, which now surpasses 40 million.  I recommend reading of the article for a quick update on current trends.
However, there is another side to this story, which is the larger picture of how financial transactions are currently being handled on South Korean web sites.  Unfortunately, there are still many institutions that cling to old, outdated and risky Microsoft software solutions, even after the government, from the President on down, have urged them to modernize and improve security for financial transactions.
To illustrate this point, I will use my personal example.  After being a happy expatriate resident of Korea and  user of Skype and its "Skype out" service for many years, I recently stopped using "Skype out" a paid service that allows you to call regular phones anywhere in the world.  The reason? Sometime after Microsoft purchased Skype, a Korean company took over responsibility for all Skype services originating in South Korea and I was asked (yes, in the Spring of 2014 and after President Park Geun-hye's meeting with business leaders on the topic of deregulation) to download and install Microsoft's Active-X control, as shown in the screen capture accompanying this post (click to see a full-size version). This pop-up screen appeared even though I was using the Chrome browser, not Internet Explorer. That was the last straw.   Microsoft itself warned the public about the inherent security risks in Active-X years ago.  Korean companies have been urged by their president to stop using Active-X and institute modern online and mobile security measures.

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