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More S. Koreans voice dissatisfaction with overseas e-commerce platforms in 2023

March 29, 2024 - 17:50 By Hwang Joo-young

More South Korean consumers expressed dissatisfaction with their experiences shopping directly via online platform services based overseas last year, partly attributed to Chinese e-commerce platform AliExpress tapping deeper into the Korean market as well as greater demand for overseas travel among Koreans using online travel agency services based in Singapore, according to the Korea Consumer Agency.

According to the KCA on Friday, the total number of requests for advice and reports of disputes from South Korean nationals regarding their experiences with retail platforms based overseas totaled 19,418 cases in 2023, a 16.9 percent increase from the 16,608 cases reported in 2022.

The total number of cases represents the combined number of requests for advice submitted to government agencies and categorized by the KCA, which operates under the antitrust watchdog agency, the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

Of the total, requests for consumer advice regarding overseas direct purchases -- where Korean consumers bought products or services directly via online platforms based outside of the country -- surged to 11,798 cases in 2023, marking a 68.9 percent increase from the previous year's 6,987 cases.

However, consultation requests regarding shopping conducted through overseas purchasing agents dropped by 17 percent to 7,218 cases in the same period.

The KCA attributed the rise in the number of complaints to the recently expanded presence of Chinese e-commerce platforms such as AliExpress in Korea.

According to the KCA, out of the 4,769 total consultation requests regarding product purchases, there were 673 cases specifically concerning AliExpress in 2023, a dramatic 295 percent increase from 228 cases in 2022.

By type, specifically among the 18,974 cases the authorities were clearly able to classify, the highest number of requests were related to clothes, shoes and accessories, totaling 6,291 cases, which accounts for 33.2 percent. The second-highest number of requests was airline services with 5,253 cases, or 27.7 percent, followed by accommodations services with 2,331 cases, or 12.3 percent.

By country, out of the 8,604 identified cases of requests for assistance, Singapore accounted for the highest number with 2,958 cases, constituting 34.4 percent. Next was China with 1,161 cases, or 13.5 percent; followed by the US with 1,047 cases, or 12.2 percent; Malaysia with 608 cases, or 7.1 percent; and the Czech Republic with 427 cases, or 5 percent.

"In the last year as well, Singapore accounted for the highest number of cases, primarily due to the significant portion of consultations regarding online travel agency services, such as Agoda and, which are based in the Southeast Asian country," explained an official from the KCA. "This may reflect the increasing demand for overseas travel among South Korean nationals."

"However, notably, the number of consultations regarding China more than doubled to 1,161 cases from the previous year," the KCA official added, attributing this increase to the rise in consultation requests concerning AliExpress.

The top reason for dissatisfaction was service-related issues such as delays and rejections of refunds or cancellations, which accounted for 7,521 cases, or 37.7 percent. The second most common issue was delivery-related problems, including non-delivery, delays and incorrect deliveries, with 2,647 cases, or 13.6 percent.

The KCA stated on Friday that it intends to hold a meeting with online retail platforms based overseas facing an increasing number of consumer complaints. In addition, it said that it is currently working on establishing a direct line of communication with AliExpress, as the Chinese platform experienced the largest increase in the number of requests for assistance between 2022 and 2023.