Apple opened its first store in Garosugil in Seoul, South Korea, on January 27 at 10 a.m. About 300 people lined up to get inside this first Apple store, even while temperatures fell to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Apple confirmed plans to open the store over a year ago, and construction and hiring have been underway since then. The Apple store provides in-store programming and services for South Korean customers all in one place. The programming offers a lot of free sessions to Korean customers to learn about specialized fields including photography, music, and design and coding skills. Anyone can attend the sessions, held in the store’s boardroom.
Despite the overwhelming power of local smartphone makers including Samsung and LG in South Korea, Apple’s performance has been strong. In both the smart wearables and tablets sectors, it ranks second, with more than a fifth of the entire share in each market. More than 10 million iPhones have been sold in South Korea during the past 10 years. In particular, iPhone 6 hit about 33% market share in South Korea. It is estimated that Apple sold 400,000 units of the iPhone X in Korea in its first two months.
There are 140 employees including 18 Koreans who have worked in the new Apple store and the number of Korean employees is increasing. Apple cooperates with other South Korean companies as well. CJ E&M was the first Korean content provider to collaborate with Apple Music. In addition to a streaming platform, CJ also has cable television channels, so it will create synergy across sectors. For CJ, it will also be more profitable to cooperate with Apple Music than compete with other market dominators like Melon and Kakao. Additionally, Apple is reportedly in discussions with LG Display to invest about $2 billion into a new facility called E6 which focuses on OLED screens for Apple.
Yeseul Oh is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Wahshington Young fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. She is a student of Kyunghee university in South Korea