Of all my experiences in Korea, one of the more frustrating has proven to be the long-running saga of our Internet connection; despite this country projecting itself as something of a high-tech paradise the reality of life under LG Powercom has been one of routing problems and downright failures of varying durations. After our cable modem was replaced back in February, there was an improvement for a time, but lately we've been losing connectivity sporadically, and one of the websites which became permanently inaccessible was that of a stockbroker in the UK I happen to use, and that escalated it from an irritation into a major problem.
So having exhausted my own investigations into the issue, my wife phoned Korea Telecom (KT) yesterday morning to have their allegedly 8Mb MegaPass ADSL service installed. Meanwhile, LG offered to come around to troubleshoot their existing 10Mb connection. Early afternoon, both engineers phoned us to confirm the directions to our apartment and we faced up to the slightly awkward reality that they would arrive within minutes of one another. Sure enough the KT guy had barely sat down to start fiddling with our phone socket before the LG representative appeared. I think had it been in the UK the two engineers would have talked, but aside from one of them asking the other to move his computer at one point there wasn't even eye contact - maybe there was some genuine sense of rivalry under the surface.
Our KT engineer had me up and running at 6.5Mb (unsurprising as we're not sat on top of the exchange) within twenty minutes, and he was gone, a mere four hours after our order - when customer service is good in Korea it can be truly excellent - I know someone back home who's having to wait for two weeks for a large provider to come out and fit her connection, and it's not uncommon. Even better, the unfortunate clash meant that our LG engineer got to see our troublesome website loading up unhindered on his competitor's system while we enjoyed a quiet moment of triumph - though I did feel terribly sorry for him at the same time.
What was really intriguing though is this. LG Powercom's main office in Seoul told us on the phone that they could access my stockbroker's website. But when the engineer failed even with his own computer he phoned his office in Busan to be told that they couldn't either. When we'd phoned KT in the morning to place an order for their service, an knowledgeable-sounding employee told us that he suspected that LG filters sites outside Korea and sometimes innocent sites get wrongly tagged as being against the Korean rules in some way, and are then caught up in the block-list. I thought something of this nature might be the case because I could 'traceroute' through to the site in question but all attempts at direct web access (i.e. without using a proxy server) failed. The fact that the LG network operations centre in Seoul probably sits above this filter but the one in Busan doesn't fits with what happened, but Seoul denied they were operating such a list. By the time our LG engineer left though, he wasn't so sure that what they were telling him was true.
So we now have two Internet connections, even if it's something we should have done months ago, the KT engineer has the story of how they put one over on their rivals LG, and the LG engineer has a small conspiracy to unravel.
Korean keywords: 아파트, 인터넷, 엔지니어