Apple Pay comes to Korea but still faces critical infrastructure challenges

Apple Pay paying for coffee
(Image credit: Pexels)

Apple Pay is finally coming to South Korea starting on Tuesday, March 21 but only one card will be supported at launch. What's more, some industry watchers are concerned that there won't be enough support among retailers to make the feature take off.

Apple Pay will allow people to make contactless payments using an iPhone or Apple Watch, but it does require that retailers have a supported NFC terminal in place for it to work. And that isn't a given.

Significant challenges are expected due to the limited number of NFC-capable terminals in use throughout Korea, although some retailers are already making moves to ensure that they're ready for people to ask to buy goods using Apple Pay.

A shortage of NFC

The Korea Times reports that Apple Pay will be available in Korea within a matter of hours, but only for those who use Hyundai Card initially. That card has so far seen a huge boost in sign-ups, with Apple Pay support one of the possible reasons. Sign-ups are up 7.3%, it's reported.

But whether Hyundai Card owners will actually be able to use Apple Pay in their favorite shops remains to be seen. The Korea Times reports that Apple Pay "still faces significant challenges in Korea due to the limited number of stores equipped with NFC terminals." While some stores like Costco, Lotte Mart, and Homeplus are reportedly ready to go, others just haven't been able to get NFC readers installed quickly enough. Ediya and Mega Coffee are two stores said to be in the process of getting NFC terminals ready, however.

It's reported that less than 10% of the Korean stores capable of accepting credit cards have the required NFC terminals in place, and those that do are likely to be franchises rather than independent stores. The report blames that on the high cost of installing the required terminals.

Those that can pay with Apple Pay won't need the best iPhone or best Apple Watch to use it, thankfully. The Apple Watch Series 1 or later as well as any iPhone with Face ID or Touch ID (bar the iPhone 5s) are good to go.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.