After months of regulatory delays, Apple users in South Korea finally saw the launch of Apple Pay today. As with other markets, Apple’s wallet and payment service in Korea will work across iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac.
The question now is whether Google, which also has been trying to offer mobile payment service via Google Pay since 2017, is planning to expand its payment business in South Korea.
“Apple Pay is available from today in South Korea,” Duncan Olby, who is leading Apple Pay, Wallet and Payment for international markets, said Tuesday at a press conference held in Seoul. “Users can add their credit and debit cards on Wallet for their iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac.”
Apple Pay customers can pay with their smartphones instead of physical payment cards in retail stores like grocery stores, restaurants and cafes across South Korea and make purchases online, in-app, in-store and on the web.
“When making purchases online in Safari (or other third-party browsers from iOS 16) or in apps, customers can use Apple Pay without having to create an account, key in a PIN, fill out lengthy forms, or repeatedly type in shipping and billing information,” the company said in its statement.
Apple, which introduced Apply Pay in 2014, has been trying to bring the payment system to South Korea since 2017. Delays initially were due to Apple unable to register as an electronic financial business operator in the country. Later, local regulators examined closely whether the firm’s payment system violated Korean payment regulations, causing the launch to be pushed back further.
Last month, a South Korean financial regulator approved the long wait for Apple’s payment service. The country’s Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) said it would introduce Apple Pay in South Korea and allow local cardholders to use Apple’s payment service, including Hyundai Card. The latter was originally in talks to have a one-year exclusivity partnership with Apple Pay in Korea but has given up.
However, no other local card providers appear to have participated in Apply Pay so far, so there Hyundai Card has gotten what it wanted by default, at least for now.
Per the company’s statement, only customers with Visa, Mastercard and local credit and debit cards issued from Hyundai Card can add their cards to Apply Pay.
The Cupertino-based company has made a big push in its security and privacy profile. These “are at the core of Apple Pay, which features industry-leading protection of users’ personal information, transaction data, and credit and debit card information.” Card numbers are not stored on devices or Apple servers. Instead, Apple said, a unique Device Account Number is encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element chip.
South Korea’s limited number of NFC (near-field communication) terminals in retail shops could still be a roadblock for Apple Pay. (Only about 10% of 2.9 million local retailers in South Korea reportedly have NFC enabled in their credit card terminals.) But, more NFC terminal installations are expected to increase by the end of 2023, according to a recent report by Counterpoint, which also says that Apple Pay’s launch could intensify competition in South Korea’s payment market and among peers such as Samsung Pay, Naver Pay and Kakao Pay. iPhone and Apple Watch users are likely to switch to Apple Pay, it noted.
“Many of our users here have been eager to use Apple Pay for their everyday spending in-store, online and in-apps, so we are thrilled to roll out and make seamless and secure payments available across top merchants in South Korea,” Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet said in a statement.
Apple Pay is now available in more than 70 countries and regions and has partnered with over 10,000 banks across the globe.