Booking tickets online just got easier, but flaws remain

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Booking tickets online just got easier, but flaws remain

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For expatriates and tourists in Korea, reserving tickets for performances and exhibits has meant more than simply submitting a credit card number online.

Arts enthusiasts have constantly complained about having to take complicated and burdensome steps to purchase tickets, including registering online, which often requires entering a resident registration number that only Koreans have or an alien registration number obtained from the Korea Immigration Service.

Being forced to download Active X online transaction security programs added another hassle that has deterred some from booking tickets.

But these barriers to accessing performances in Korea are slowly eroding. The Seoul Arts Center, in a move to become more customer friendly, launched a new Web site on Dec. 26 (www.sacticket.co.kr) that eliminated the complex member registration process. The new site permits all customers - whether members or not - to book tickets to operas, ballets and classical music performances, even those who are foreigners living outside of Korea.

“The mandatory process of verifying the customer’s real name made Koreans uncomfortable, but it was a very high barrier for expatriates,” an SAC spokesman said.

But the site isn’t perfect yet. Even if you click on the “English” button at the top-right corner of the site, the interface remains same. Only after clicking on the “Programs” banner at the top left do the titles and descriptions of respective performances appear in English.

If you click on the “On Sale” button of the performance you want to book, you can choose from three options: member login, nonmember login (written only in Korean) and nonmember reservations (English). Choose the last option, and you are required to create a reservation account for nonmembers, which does not require a resident registration number or an alien registration number. You can then select a venue, date, time, seat and payment options.

Avoiding the notorious Active X with Microsoft Internet Explorer may have been impossible for the government-funded performance center. Instead, the new site will enable the holders of overseas credit cards to pay via browsers Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome instead of Explorer.

Those who are interested in more popular performance genres, such as K-pop concerts, should visit Interpark Global at http://ticket.interpark.com/global. The largest ticket reservation site in Korea requires you to enter your resident or alien registration number if you want to purchase tickets with a Korean credit card. Among foreign cards, American Express is not accepted.

The situation with the National Theater of Korea, which specializes in traditional Korean performances, is the most complicated among all major performance halls.

If you want to book online at its site (www.ntok.go.kr/english), you need to download a booking form as a Microsoft Word document, fill it in and submit it to the theater via fax or e-mail.

The fastest way to book in advance would be to make a phone call to the customer center at (02) 2280-4114, although some may see the old-fashioned approach as riskier than purchasing tickets via a secure Web site.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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