Gov’t will not enforce law on foreign devices

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Gov’t will not enforce law on foreign devices

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning on Monday said it will postpone its crackdown on smartphones purchased from foreign online shopping malls that use radio wave signals that have not been approved by the government.

These smartphones are bought in bulk by small agencies based on orders placed via blogs or Internet cafes.

“The ministry will not start cracking down on smartphones bought directly from overseas online malls until the revised radio wave act is amended so it will not impose any hardship on local buyers,” the ICT Ministry said in a statement.

In June, the ministry revised the national radio wave law to require anyone who purchases smartphones from abroad to get a radio wave certification. The government claimed preset radio wave signals on smartphones purchased overseas were not compatible with authorized signals in Korea and would disrupt the local system.

Before the revision, the certification requirement was imposed only on large importers.

Korean consumers have flocked to these small agencies for the latest iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy devices since the distribution improvement act put a ceiling on subsidies.

“Smartphones offered by these small import agencies should be encouraged because the larger inflows of foreign smartphones can contribute to stabilizing overall smartphone prices in Korea,” said Chang Byung-wan, a lawmaker from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, during the National Assembly’s annual audit in October.

According to the Korea Customs Service, Koreans directly purchased more than $1 billion in merchandise from foreign online shopping malls in 2013. Purchases are expected to surpass 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) this year.

The revised radio wave act imposes heavy costs on small importers that would be passed on to consumers. Also subject to certification are televisions and home appliances with telecommunications functions from overseas.

According to data provided by the ICT Ministry, each seller must pay the radio wave signal testing fees and service charges that can cost as much as 33 million won per model for smartphones and 1.5 million won for televisions.

This means agencies that import one or 100 smartphones have to pay the same 33 million won.

BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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