Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Job Creation In Korea

For a country that is astoundingly convenient and boasts probably the best infrastructure in the world, I'm often struck by how maddeningly inefficient everything is in Korea. It's almost as if inefficiency is deliberately built into the system in order to guarantee millions of extra jobs that would otherwise not exist. For instance, I know that if I need to do something simple at the bank, it will require at least an hour, two to three employees, and half a dozen calls to the main office. And I'm just talking about something like changing a phone number on an account.

My most fun recent experience with job creation in Korea has to be with my prepaid sim card. For the record, Korea finally entered the 21st century, and no longer treats all foreigners as phone phreaking terrorists, which means if you have an unlocked phone, you can buy a prepaid sim card for voice, texting, and data just by presenting your passport (go to Gwanghwamun Station, Exit 2, Olleh Square). It's pretty darn expensive - I was told "58 won per MB", but the actual price is 580, which is about $0.50/MB - but at least it's possible. Anyway, I was told that if you also have a Korean credit card, you can set it up to automatically recharge your phone, which obviously is way more convenient than going to the store every time your phone runs out of charge. I triple checked with the employee that everything was set up properly, and received multiple assurances, but I still was not surprised in the least when I got a text message a week later telling me the automatic charge didn't work, and I would have to contact my financial institution to see why.

Job creation!

First I went back to the phone place, and spent an hour listening to the same employee talking to three different KT departments to figure out what the problem was. No dice, and she's waiting on an email response from a different department. Since I needed to go to the bank anyway, I had them check for me, too. An hour later, we discover what we believe to be the problem - despite this auto-charge thing being claimed as possible, the phone company's computer system can't accept the ID number associated with the credit card because they apparently hard-coded it to only accept passport numbers. Despite having the credit card associated with my passport, my bank assigns it a pseudo-ID number in the format they like. So the phone company tries to charge the card and sends over the wrong ID number, and the charge fails. Long story short - I'm probably the first foreigner who's ever tried to set this up, and the phone company tells me they'll contact me when they fix their system. I offered to fix it for them, but they likely assumed I was an English teacher and possess no skillz aside from my mother tongue.

At least a whole lot of people are employed making and answering these phone calls all day. 한국 화이팅!