South Koreans` direct purchases from overseas online shopping malls are expected to reach two trillion won (1.86 billion U.S. dollars) this year. I have contributed to the amount, too. Raising two children, I have bought milk bottles, clothes and toys for them from overseas Internet shopping malls. When I found some goods that were half the prices of those in Korea, I had mixed feelings of pride for my frugal shopping and bitterness for having been ripped off before.
Price is not the only difference. What is more surprising is the shopping sites` easy purchasing procedure. They do not require customers to join the sites as members. Customers can make purchases just by entering their e-mail addresses, credit card numbers and the expiry date of their plastic. Similar procedures apply when making reservations for overseas hotels and purchasing paid mobile applications.
Using Korean Internet shopping malls is complicated. Most of them require users to install Active X software. In some instances, visitors are required to install two or three software programs. Once Active X is installed, users have to download separate "safe settlement" software. Those who have to pay 300,000 won (280 dollars) or more for their purchases, they are required to have an authenticated certificate for online transactions. Online shopping malls require different Active X software.
Many online shoppers in Korea complain about such multiple downloads and requirements. At the center of the controversy is Active X, which supports financial settlements and security for online transactions. However, they do more harm than good. They slow down users` personal computers and are misused as channels for spreading viruses and malwares. The security software actually disarms users.
As Active X runs only on Internet Explorer, users of other web browsers such as Chrome or Safari cannot use it. Active X is not in compliance with global web standards. Even Microsoft, the developer of Active X, admits the problems and is developing alternatives. Choi Mun-kee, minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning, also officially said, "Korea should do away with Active X."
Despite the situations, many domestic Internet companies stick to Active X, since the financial authorities authorizing financial transaction methods are reluctant to adopt new ones. The Financial Supervisory Service refused to approve non-Active X settlement methods until last year. The financial watchdog is reluctant because of burdens of replacing the transaction system that has been used for 10 years despite small and big incidents. Many users who rarely access foreign Internet sites do not complain about the Active X system.
The Washington Post reported in its November 7 edition that South Korea, a frontrunner in the digital revolution, is "stuck in a time warp in one way." The U.S. daily reported, "South Koreans are so accustomed to Active X installations that they sometimes mistakenly download malicious software." The country`s Internet environment has gone beyond being inconvenient and risky and reached a level in which other countries find it weird. While the authorities and Internet businesses remain lazy in changing, you are forced to install unidentified software programs at the risk of getting your computer be infected with viruses.