In the cutthroat South Korean smartphone market, a bidding war for new customers has emerged around the Samsung Galaxy S8, with retailers offering illegal subsidies that drop the new flagship’s price to the equivalent of just $177.
In South Korea, the Galaxy S8 has a RRP of 935,000 won, with a combination of subsidies from carriers and retailers allowing that price to drop as low as 753,000 won. Legally. But during the unofficial holiday period between Labor Day (May 1) and the presidential election next Tuesday, retailers, both on and offline, have been offering as much as 600,000 won in illegal subsidies to attract new S8 customers.
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The Korea Communications Commission typically monitors the rate of new smartphone subscriptions with a daily threshold of 24,000 new sign-ups before it investigates the reasons for the increase – typically attributable to illegal subsidies. But on Wednesday alone there were 28,267 new subscriptions, indicating sudden heightened competition between the nation’s three main carriers.
The reason for this bidding war is because the KCC halted its monitoring of new subscriptions on April 30, just before the holidays started, hence the carrier free-for-all. Furthermore, the KCC chairman has stepped down and a new one isn’t expected to be appointed until after the presidential election.
The KCC has now threatened a probe into the involved carriers’ actions if the illegal subsidies persist. While the illegal offers will no doubt stop before a new chairman is appointed and a probe launched, now is definitely a good time to buy a Galaxy S8 in Korea.