Digital natives get iPad fever, despite the price

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Digital natives get iPad fever, despite the price

A new rule that allows Koreans to import one iPad per person has members of the “digital native” generation champing at the bit to get their hands on the hot new gadget - and they don’t care what they pay for the privilege.

The Korea Communications Commission, the state-run communications regulator, announced on April 27 that it would allow limited imports of Apple’s tablet computers, which are not available for purchase in Korean stores.

That news freed digital natives - a term coined by American education expert Marc Prensky in 2001, which refers to the generation who were born when digital technologies already existed and grew up with computers, cell phones and MP3 players - to try to get the hot device from people who are willing to buy them overseas and ship them to Korea, for a hefty mark-up.

The price for getting the 16-gigabyte iPad from a private buyer is around 700,000 won ($607). In the United States, the tablet computer starts at $499.

Since the KCC made its announcement, the number of bulletin boards offering iPads for private sale on Korea’s major portal sites, such as Daum and Naver, has skyrocketed. When one Internet site announced this month it would take orders for the gadget, it received 40 orders from Korean customers within nine days.

Private sales take place when an overseas buyer buys a large quantity of iPads, based on orders he or she receives from Korea. The buyer then ships the computers to individual Korean customers through express mail. At present, private sales are the only way to bring an iPad into Korea, as the KCC has banned large imports.

“I just bought an iPad through a private overseas buyer because I couldn’t resist a devil inside of me who whispered and insisted getting one,” a consumer wrote on the Web site’s bulletin board.

“I heard iPad will officially hit stores in Korea after June, but I can’t wait that long and I’m ordering one here,” another gadget lover wrote.

Experts said the digital natives’ overwhelming response to the iPad is natural, and the fad doesn’t shock them.

“Digital natives have already passed purchase boundaries at the domestic level,” said Whang Sang-min, a psychology professor at Yonsei University. “They feel they lag behind if they didn’t buy the new gadget right after it’s released.”

Whang said that the Korean laws restricting imports ignored consumer demand, and in response customers are making their best efforts to obtain one in any reasonable way.

“The government’s ban on importing iPads directly is nonsense,” Whang said.


By Kim Mi-ju, Kim Hyo-eun [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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회사원 임모(27)씨는 최근 해외 구매대행 사이트를 통해 아이패드(사진)를 주문했다. 아이패드는 애플사에서 나온 태블릿PC로 지난달 3일 미국에서 처음 출시됐다. 아직 국내 정식 수입은 되지 않았다.

하지만 임씨는 국내에 정식 수입될 때까지 기다릴 수 없었다. 때마침 방송통신위원회에서 지난달 27일 개인당 1대 구매를 허용하면서 해외 구매대행 사이트들이 속속 생겨났다. 미국에 있는 판매자가 인터넷을 통해 구매 희망자를 모은 후, 미국 현지에서 대량 구입해 국내로 보내주는 방식이다. 국내에서 판매목적으로 수입하는 것이 금지돼 있기 때문에 우회로를 택한 것이다. 임씨는 “편법이란 사실은 알지만, 이미 미국 친구들이 아이패드를 사용한 뒤 블로그에 사용후기를 올리는 것을 보고 서둘러 주문하게 됐다”고 말했다.

전문가들은 이런 현상이 디지털 혁명기의 한복판에서 성장한 ‘디지털 네이티브족(族)’에겐 당연한 것이라고 설명한다. 디지털 네이티브란 디지털 언어와 장비를 마치 특정 언어의 원어민처럼 자유자재로 구사하는 젊은 세대를 뜻한다. 그만큼 디지털 기기에 대한 애착이 강하다. 또 신제품 등장에 민감하기 때문에 출시를 앞두고 여러 해프닝이 벌어지기도 한다.
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