Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gas and Air

The gas bill for the month arrived. £6. The cost of our monthly gas bill back home? £45. Admittedly, we're in a one-room apartment here rather than a house, but during the summer in the house all we used the gas for was cooking and showers - and it was still about £25 per month. Our Korean friends and family thought our bill was quite high - although you can't change suppliers here so perhaps we just have to put that down to our showering for too long.

On the other hand, and this came as a bit of a shock to me, the mobile phone bill for the first month - in which we hadn't made many calls - was £20. The bill so far for the first three weeks of November - in which we'd made even fewer calls - was £7. I reckon the same calls would have cost us £3 back home. For a country obsessed by mobile communication, I'm surprised at the high cost of calls, and the apparent lack of competition in the market. Korean telecoms companies are seem to be milking Koreans for all they can.

Here's a very telling thing in my book. When asked for an itemised call breakdown SKT scratched their heads and said 'we can't provide those'. The best they could do was a summarised bill, which tells you little about how they're actually calculating things. How do you know if they are charging fairly and not making mistakes? It seems the answer is that you have to go to a main branch to find out such things.

Korea can seem a very innocent society compared with Europe and the US, where you can walk the streets safe at night and leave your bag at your table in a restaurant while you go to the toilet, but perhaps for the Koreans it has its hidden downside - Korean consumers are potentially easy prey for cynically profiteering corporates.

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