The past few months have been riddled with technological challenges. From my fritzy phone to my bum internet, I haven’t exactly been thriving in this tech-obsessed country. Just one day after lending my tablet to a friend who lost her laptop, my own laptop was finished (R.I.P.). There was little hope for having my macbook repaired in the land of Samsung and LG. Although there are a handful of authorized Apple resellers called “Frisbee” in cities like Busan and Seoul, the closest option was over four hours away. But I was desparate to have access to my computer, so I headed into Seoul for some help. Arriving exactly 2 minutes after closing (2pm on a Saturday?!), the repair folks (rudely) told me to go away and come back Monday, despite me pleading with them to just take the laptop and fix it later to save me another 4 hour-each-way trip.
With that kind of customer service, I didn’t want my precious files in their hands. So I prepared myself for the dreaded switch to PC. After many years of blissfully using the same computer, I had to do a lot of research for which one would serve my needs best, and what would be available in Korea.
Unfortunately, Amazon is not very accessible from Korea. Very few sellers will ship to Korea, and the ones that will charge an outrageous amount for shipping, in addition to required import fees. There are a number of third party shippers that will get your goods to Korea, but there fees are high and I was worried about the accountability on such a pricey item. Another option is to ship a laptop to a friend in the USA or Canada, but the cost for them to ship to Korea, insurance, and import fees aren’t likely to be competitive with laptop prices here.
After asking around, I found a number of websites that offered decent availability for decent pricing, such as Icoda, which is great if you speak Korean, but requires the help of a kind co-teacher or friend to translate if you don’t. If ordering online, be very careful to make sure that you can get English software!
Generic shopping sites like Gmarket, Danawa, and BB (no English), also have a selection of electronics, but the prices seem to be higher compared to tech shops online and in store. However, they can be good starting points in finding the right laptop.
Another option, which I recommend, is heading to an actual store. Seoul offers the Yongsan electronics market, or TechnoMart. Located right beside the DongSeoul bus station, TechnoMart is easily accessible and has a massive selection of all different tech, from cameras, to phones, laptops, gaming systems, and accessories. The laptops are located on the 7th floor, which has a variety of sellers that offer competitive pricing. The Yongsan electronics market is also easily accessible, located right at the Yongsan subway station.
Different sellers at TechnoMart will offer different prices for the same product, so if you purchase one, be sure to check all the other spots for better prices. Additionally, the prices at brick-and-mortar stores like TechnoMart are sometimes higher than online, and vice-versa. So do your research to compare prices before you buy. Even if the price is matched to an online price, it is totally appropriate to try haggling at these stores.
I can’t speak for all the sellers, but the one I ended up buying my laptop from spoke decent English, and was very helpful. He installed Windows 10 in English for me at no additional cost, and included a carrying case, mouse, and mouse pad for free. The whole process took about an hour, giving us a chance to drool over some of the other goodies in TechnoMart. However, if you feel dodgy about having a peg leg with your software, TechnoMart may not be the place to get your laptop. Also, the laptop will come with both an English and Korean keyboard.
One of the best things about TechnoMart is the cash prices. If you choose to pay cash rather than card, they will give you a decent discount. On my 650,000 won laptop, I paid 600,000 won with cash. However, this could lead to higher taxes at the end of the year.
After the stressful experience of being computerless for three months and then purchasing a new laptop in Korea, I am finally set up with a new MSi cx62 6QD. Getting used to PC is a challenge, but now I can finally play games again. And so returns my Elder Scrolls addiction.