Today I want to talk about COMPUTERS! Those wonderful devices that most of us simply can’t function without. We use them for getting work done, watching TV and movies, playing games, and keeping in touch with people. Computers (and tablets and smartphones) are how we do our banking, buy concert tickets, do online shopping, and get a lot of our basic needs met. In 2017, our technology is our lifeline.
When you get ready to come to Korea, you are probably taking a good look at everything you’re thinking of bringing. You might be like me and decide to treat yourself to a new laptop. Or maybe you’re already in Korea and you need to buy a new computer because your old one finally gave out.
Story Time: As I was getting ready to move abroad, I started worrying about if my MacBook (that I bought in 2010) would be smart to bring with me. It had started acting up in numerous ways and even Apple basically told me that there was nothing they could do (read: were willing to do for such and “old” device) to make it more reliable. I got the gut feeling that Murphy’s Law was about to come into play: if I stayed in America, my computer would probably run just fine for another few years until I decided to replace it with a faster machine; but if I took it to Korea, I would get the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” within a few months and be stuck trying to buy a computer in a foreign land.
So I did what I felt was the most sensible thing: I started shopping for a new computer. I decided to go with a Chromebook (rather than another Mac or picking a PC) because I basically just needed a glorified tablet with a keyboard and a trackpad. I don’t make videos or edit pictures. I don’t play games (beyond the occasional flash game online). I don’t need any Office-type software beyond whats available though Google Docs. I basically just needed an internet machine. And that is exactly what a Chromebook is. And for me, it was the right thing to buy.
However, in Korea, there are times I wish I had a “real” computer.
You see, Korea has some of the world’s fastest internet. This country has their shit together when it comes to devices being connected to the world wide web. I can even connect to the internet while riding the subway! Hooray for fast internet! But for as ahead of the times as the connectivity is, there are some aspects of Korean “internet culture” that are sorely behind the times.
In order to do any sort of financial interaction online (online banking, buying something off of Gmarket, buying movie or concert tickets) you need to be able to download certain “security certificates.” These are very old kinds of programming that basically are designed to secure the financial transaction that is taking place. But they seem to be based off of Windows 98 type programming, and they are not compatible with every device.
You can’t really do online banking on your phone (unless you’re a native Korean typically). If you have a Mac, forget about it. The security certificates only work on Windows based computers. And if you have a Chromebook like me, a lot of sites view it as a “mobile device” since there’s no real operating system, so I can’t download them either.
Basically, if you don’t use Internet Explorer, you won’t be able to do any financial transactions. Just about every site will direct you to use IE to complete the transaction, because it’s part of Korean national security policies. Check out this article to see how this annoys Koreans as well.
I’m very fortunate that Cody has a PC and let me set up my Korean Citibank online banking on his computer. I’m thankfully able to do pretty much everything I could want to do on an ATM (Korean ATMs kick serious ass), but if I *needed* to do something online, I can use his computer.
Moral of the Story: If you are in the market for a new computer before you come to teach in Korea, research your options. There are probably thousands of very happy Mac users here in Korea, they just probably find workarounds for the types of issues I’ve mentioned here. Apple products seem to be growing in popularity here, so hopefully the security programs will catch up. If you’re already a PC kind of guy or gal (or however you self-identify, no judgement here), then keep rolling with your Windows-based style. Fellow Chromebook user? Maaaaaaybe find a buddy who will let you borrow their PC every now and again…
Regardless of the machine that you buy or how long you plan on staying in Korea, there are plenty of ways to make things work for you. It’s 2017, technology is your friend. (Or, if you’re like me, it’s your boyfriend’s friend and you just smile and ask him to help fix whatever you messed up.)