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[Weekender] Language barrier, online security turn foreign shoppers away

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : Nov. 28, 2014 - 21:26

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Despite a surge in foreign purchases on Korean online shopping sites, some barriers still hamper the shopping experiences.

Common complaints include: poorly translated websites, excessive Internet security and limited delivery options.

In a bid to meet the growing demand from foreign nationals, major online retailers have launched foreign language services, mostly in English and Chinese.

But much of the content is poorly translated, with some detailed information only available in Korean.

“It is common that when I click on something in English, Korean words that I cannot understand pop up,” said Connie Pang, an office worker from Hong Kong.

Last August, the 33-year-old tried buying a fitness product on Gmarket, the nation’s biggest online shopping mall. But she eventually had to ask for help from her friends with translation to avoid placing an incorrect order.

“We sell millions of products. It is difficult for us to translate all the pages,” said Lee Sang-min, a spokesperson of Gmarket. “Now we are asking our vendors to add translated information about their products.

Internet security measures also remain a conundrum.

“There are pop-up notices that require annoying updates and installation of software,” said Quynh Ahn, a 27-year-old banker in Vietnam.

“I am often unable to log on to the shopping sites, which deters me from completing the purchases,” she added. “I just give up on shopping on Korean websites.”

The Korean government has asked online shoppers to use government-issued digital certificates since 1999. But the complicated process has led to complaints even among Koreans.

“If these problems were solved, I would shop more frequently on Korean Web stores,” said Pang, suggesting that more delivery options be offered for international customers.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)