Alipay makes tourists feel right at home

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Alipay makes tourists feel right at home

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Alipay, Alibaba’s mobile payment service, eases the transaction process for Chinese visitors at duty free stores in Seoul. Users simply place their smartphone in front of a barcode scanner. Provided by Alipay

Chinese tourist Jin Li Tien, 37, was visiting Seoul with her husband and daughter on Monday to celebrate the Chinese New Year. She took the local bus heading from Gwanghwamun to Seochon on the west side of Gyeongbok Palace using a transit card, which is a collaboration between China’s largest online payment service provider Alipay and Korea’s T-money signed in December.

“I can use the card I purchased at Incheon International Airport on public buses and subways like any other Seoul resident,” said the tourist. “We also can make purchases at convenience stores.”

The card was created for Chinese tourists who like to travel without a guide in Korea, as it can be used for any public transportation in the greater Seoul area as well as Jeju Island, by far the most popular destination for Chinese tourists. In addition to coffee shops and convenience stores, many cosmetics stores accept the Alipay and T-money card.

Many Chinese tourists visiting Korea this year make payments through their mobile wallet Alipay. Just last year many used Union Pay credit cards from China’s largest credit card issuer or cash, but now they can access Alipay or use Alipay partner cards.

Chinese tourists also can purchase goods at duty free stores with their Alipay app, where cashiers simply swipe the smartphone screen with a barcode reader.

Their tax refund on goods purchased is easy and requires no standing in a long queue at the airport. All they need to do is write their mobile phone number on the receipt and the tax refund will be transferred to their Alipay account.

Alipay subscriptions already are exploding, with more than 800 million, or three of every five Chinese, signed up. The service is transforming and growing at a rapid pace to allow use outside China.

Alipay, unlike Korea’s financial technology (fintech), has been ramping up services for the Chinese New Year, one of the country’s most festive holidays when large numbers of Chinese travel. According to Korean industry sources, Alipay is offering various benefits, including doubling the tax refund of Alipay users who make purchases in Korea. The ceiling on the tax refund is 200 yuan (about $32).

In addition, those who use the Alipay and T-money collaboration card at coffee shops and convenience stores in Korea get a 50 percent discount on purchases up to a maximum 20 yuan ($3.2).

Kiki Wu, head of Alipay Business Development in Korea, said the Chinese mobile payment company plans to further enhance its service by analyzing consumption patterns and subscriber trends.

Alipay is the mobile payment affiliate of the world’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, founded by former English teacher Jack Ma. Alipay owns 50 percent of China’s mobile payment market.

As the Korean retail industry enjoys ever-higher revenues from Chinese tourists, the influence of Alipay in the Korean market is expected to grow to include even Korean subscribers.

“Once Alipay secures its position as a convenient payment method, Koreans also will want to open an account,” said Park So-yeong, CEO of Paygate. “The Korean financial industry is falling behind in high-tech financial services that incorporate IT technology, and that is worrisome.”

Korea has been stuck in limbo in regard to fintech development, although the government has stressed its support. Some revisions of related laws have been postponed repeatedly, while the nation’s first Internet peer-to-peer loan information provider, 8percent, was forced to shut down before it could be launched for failing to register as a loan company.

The company, which is a mediator that allows people to connect to a loan provider online, registered as an information provider at the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

BY PARK SU-RYON, LEE HO-JEONG [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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