South Korea's first Apple Store may open in late 2017

Kimberly Su, Dec. 1, 2016, 9:20 a.m.

The first Apple Store in South Korea is expected to open in late 2017, potentially putting an end to the poor services received by iPhone users here.

According to local news reports Thursday, citing mobile and architecture sources, an Apple Store is currently under construction in Garosugil, a shopping district in southern Seoul, and is expected to be completed in November 2017.

The store is designed by London-based architecture firm Foster and Partners, the news reports said citing papers submitted to Gangnam-gu office. Foster and Partners is known for designing Apple’s new headquarters Campus 2 resembling a spaceship located in Cupertino, California.

The latest news comes after Apple posted job openings in September seeking Korean employees in various areas including sales, specialists and “Geniuses.” “Geniuses” are technicians who carry out in-store repairs of Apple products at the Genius Bar.

The US tech giant has not officially announced any plan regarding new stores in Seoul.

The Apple Store, if opened, is expected to reduce local consumers’ lingering complaints as it follows Apple rules of completing repairs overnight and allowing consumers to receive a replacement unit within 30 days of purchase.

Currently, iPhone users need to wait more than a week for a problem to be resolved.

Even when customers find an issue with a newly purchased phone, they are directed to local repair stores -- to which Apple entrusts customer support -- instead of having a replacement on the spot.

An Apple Korea official was not available for comment.

“When the chronic inconvenience in repair is reduced and local consumers are able to get Apple’s new device sooner through the official stores, Apple’s market share here may increase,” said an anonymous official from a local telecom operator. Apple’s new iPhones are normally rolled out a few months after the devices are unveiled in the US.

Some analysts, however, said it is too early to tell whether the opening of one store would make such a big impact in the market which is already dominated by local smartphone makers.

“Because Samsung and LG have built a solid client base here in terms of marketing, service and repair, Apple may not see a significant difference in sales through the opening of one Apple Store,” Bae Eun-joon, an analyst at LG Economic Research Institute.

“Although it may be a different story when Apple announces plans to expand stores and repair shops nationwide,“ Bae added.

The combined sales of Samsung and LG smartphones account for around 80 percent and iPhone has around a 20 percent share in the domestic market, according to Korea Internet & Security Agency.

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