Toward online competitiveness
As direct online shopping from Internet sites overseas is rapidly breaking down national borders, Korean consumers have become one of the largest groups to buy products during the Black Friday special sales in the United States. The number of Koreans who used U.S. online shopping malls during the period doubled from 40,000 last year to more than 80,000 this year. As it turned out, Korean consumers are helping struggling U.S. retailers prosper.
Large Internet shopping malls in the U.S. are competing to attract Korean customers. Amazon.com provided special information to Korean buyers with such alerts as “This product is not shipped to Korea” or “You must purchase this item a month before your desired date of delivery.” That’s possible because they can use customers’ personal information. Large department stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Lord and Taylor and Neiman Marcus all offered Korean-language guides to their products on their home pages with deals such as “No shipping charges” or “You can easily buy from Korea.” Just a few years ago, most of the malls didn’t even accept Korean credit cards.
The problem is that such online shopping sprees could put a dent in our own domestic retail industry. In order to reverse the trend, Korea should attract foreign customers to our online malls by first targeting China and Southeast Asia, where local people have a high opinion of Korean products and a special fondness for Hallyu, or the Korean Wave of cultural exports. The total amount of Chinese’ online shopping overseas hit nearly 27 trillion won ($24.4 billion) last year and is doubling each year. Drawing foreign buyers to our shopping malls online could compensate for our slowed domestic consumption. To achieve that goal, the government must allow our companies to take advantage of Big Data and devise convenient payment systems.
But various financial regulations are blocking foreigners from our shopping malls. Despite President Park Geun-hye’s urgings, foreign buyers still suffer inconveniences when purchasing Korean products online. Though the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning vowed to come up with measures to address the issue by early December, we haven’t seen any progress.
Some of our shopping malls even use PayPal, an American platform for international e-commerce payments, or Alipay, a Chinese equivalent to that service. Unless we change the system, our shopping malls cannot compete with their foreign counterparts. The government must find ways.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 1, Page 30