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Apple Pay is now available in South Korea

After years of regulatory delays, Apple has finally launched Apple Pay in South Korea. As with other markets, Apple's wallet and payment service in Korea will work across iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac, and will let users make payments at retail stores, restaurants and cafes as well as online and inside apps.

"Apple Pay is available from today in South Korea," Duncan Olby, who leads Apple Pay, Wallet and Payments for International Markets, said at a press conference in Seoul. "Users can add their credit and debit cards on Wallet for their iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac." 

Apple has been trying to bring the payment system to South Korea since 2017. Its plans were initially delayed because the company could not register as an electronic financial business operator in the country. Later, local regulators examined closely whether the firm's payment system violated Korean payment regulations around security and privacy, causing the launch to be pushed back further.

South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) approved the launch of the service last month.

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Per the company's statement, only customers with Visa, Mastercard, and local credit and debit cards issued by Hyundai Card can add their cards to Apple Pay at the moment.

Hyundai Card was originally in talks for a one-year exclusivity partnership with Apple Pay in Korea, but that deal did not happen. However, no other local card providers appear to have signed up with Apple Pay so far, so Hyundai Card seems to have gotten what it wanted, at least for now. 

Image Credits: Hyundai Card

South Korea's limited number of NFC (near-field communication) terminals in retail shops could still be a roadblock for Apple Pay, as Only about 10% of 2.9 million local retailers in South Korea reportedly have NFC enabled in their credit card terminals. However, NFC terminal installations are expected to increase by the end of 2023, according to a recent report by Counterpoint, which also says that Apple Pay's launch could intensify competition in South Korea's payments market and among peers such as Samsung Pay, Naver Pay and Kakao Pay. iPhone and Apple Watch users are likely to switch to Apple Pay, it noted.

Apple Pay is now available in more than 70 countries and regions and has partnered with over 10,000 banks across the globe. 

The question now is whether Google, which also has been trying to offer a mobile payment service via Google Pay since 2017 in the country, will expand its payment business to South Korea.