Korean Basketball Ticket Purchase Fiasco

I’m a die hard NBA fan, and watching the Portland Trail Blazers on my lap top via NBA International Online League Pass has been a life saver. But I’m really missing that live basketball energy I get from the Rose Garden Arena back home. So, I recently decided it was time to go to a Korean Basketball League game. And what better day than February 14th, 2010 to go. It’s Valentine’s Day, Lunar New Year’s Day and smack in the middle of a three day weekend.

My girl has become quite the basketball fan as well, helping me through the ups and downs of this outrageous NBA season. We’ve watched our team endure the worst curse of injury voodoo I’ve ever seen, naked pictures on the internet, shouting matches gone public, 52 point scoring dominance, changes to the starting lineup… you name it. She loves surprises and I didn’t think she’d be expecting this, so I had to make it happen.

Because Sunday the 14th of February is such a busy day, I was warned that Seoul Student Gymnasium could be a packed house, and it might be wise to get the tickets ahead of time. After all, I was denied baseball tickets at the box office two times last season because of a sold out Jamsil Stadium, and had to resort to dealing with sketchy Korean scalpers. This isn’t something I was willing to do on Valentine’s Day with my lady patiently waiting.

When you want to see a game at home, you log on to the website, pick your seats, enter your credit card info and you’re done. If you want to be old school, you drive yourself down to the box office which is open during regular business hours. I quickly learned this convenience and ease of consumer ticket purchasing power does not exist in Korea.

First, I went to the Korean Basketball League website. Seemed like a logical place to start. However, the English tab did not work. I still did my best to determine how many and which of the 10 teams are located in Seoul. My bad for not yet learning how to read this fine language because I couldn’t make sense out of anything.

Utilizing an 5 extra minutes at the end of one of my reading classes, which I may have created intentionally, I next asked a 3rd grade Korean child to help me translate and demystify the website. He determined that the SK and the Samsung teams were both located in Seoul. However, we couldn’t find any information about how to purchase tickets or where the arena is located.

Looking at the SK and Samsung websites by myself was not anymore helpful, so I called in the big guns. I emailed Ask the Expat, a website that provides a lot of helpful information about living in Korea to the foreigner community. He claims to find the answer to anything. However when his only response to my inquiry about how to buy these tickets was to ask me if my girlfriend was Korean, I figured I might be in some trouble. I’m assuming he asked that because if she was Korean, she could take care of the ticket predicament. But, my girlfriend is Canadian. And even if she was Korean, having her buy the tickets would have ruined the surprise angle of my plans.

So I took that as advice to solicit assistance from a Korean, and approached the head instructor at my hagwon. We checked the schedule and confirmed that there was in fact a game on Valentine’s Day. However, even he had a hard time figuring out exactly how to purchase tickets from the information provided online.

So he called the head office of the SK KBL team and learned that online ticket sales are not available for future games until one week prior to tip-off. Tickets are only available at the box office the day of the game. If there are left overs after one week of online ticket sales, you can show up that day and get a seat. We also found out that the SK games are held at the Seoul Student Gymnasium, located next to Jamsil Stadium, exit #8 of the Sports Complex subway stop.

The countdown began. When enough time had elapsed, bringing us within the one week mark, we went back to purchase online. I had previously read on expat blogs that foreigners have a hard time purchasing tickets to events in Korea online because a national identification number is required. I have a certificate of alien registration, but wasn’t confident that it would work.

As a first step, my head instructor thought we should first create an account for me on the SK basketball website. We were shut down immediately however, because you can’t use English characters on the form. So, unless you can provide a name in hangul, you can’t even create a username and password on their website.

The next day we discovered that tickets can be purchased on TicketLink. Unlike SK’s website, this time I was allowed to create an online account using English and we moved on to the ticket purchasing phase. This page was very difficult for my friend to navigate, and he’s a native Korean speaker. Screens re-routed him a few times, wiping out forms and re-setting defaults back to original settings, making him start over again and again. Finally, we got the hang of it, selected two seats in the “couples” section of the home team’s side (which I thought was a trip), and got all the way to the point where you select your method of payment. However, the payment system required that we have Active X installed on the computer. We tried at least 4 times to get this installed with no luck. Instead, we got pop up after pop up telling that we could go no further without completing this crucial step. So we had to dig in to the computer settings to disable the pop ups. Somehow this allowed us to proceed without installing Active X. I’m still not quite sure what happened there.

Ready to finally purchase my basketball tickets, it was then revealed that you can not pay with a debit card or a credit card. You can only transfer money from your bank account. Of course I only had credit cards and my bank card on me, not my bank book with my account information, so I would not be reserving my tickets quite yet. This was getting ridiculous.

I made sure I was packing my bank book the following day. Completely confident that I would be going home with some kind of reservation on my Valentine’s seats, we hopped on the computer before class again. My friend angled his way through the selection screens like an expert and we and proceeded to the payment checkout. I happily pulled my bank book out and he started the purchase process. But after clicking the submit payment button, a strange new pop up appeared asking for my internet banking certificate. Apparently, when I signed up for my bank account long ago, they gave me information about online banking, which I never did anything about. I’m pretty sure this is what I would have needed in order to proceed through this phase of the purchase.

Luckily, my bank is located on the the street level of the building my hagwon sits in. So we went downstairs, grabbed a number and waited in line to ask about my internet certificate. I would have needed a USB to transfer the information to my computer, which I didn’t have at the time. And even if I did have the USB, I would have had to establish my work computer as my internet banking computer. With the frequency my work computer breaks down and gets swapped out for spare computers that amazingly function even worse than my regular work computer, it would be foolish to do to so.

Back in my classroom, we decided to give it one last shot, jumped on the computer and noticed that there was one other viable option. Apparently many Koreans pay for tickets to sporting events and concerts with their cell phone, and the money is just charged to your bill. We navigated the entire process one more time, reserving the seats and proceeding to the checkout phase… only to find that this system was not working at that time. Something tells me that even if it was functioning properly for Koreans on that day, it wouldn’t have been foreigner friendly anyway.

After all this, I simply gave him my username and password to the TicketLink website and handed him a stack of cash. That way he could log on during his own personal time at home and use his bank account to pay for the tickets in my name. When I woke up the next morning, I had a confirmation email in my inbox. When I arrived at work, he printed out the ticket complete with SK logo and barcode to be scanned at the entrance.

Now, the big question… would the game be full or could I just have shown up at game time and purchased the tickets?

Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on February 15, 2010.

5 Responses to “Korean Basketball Ticket Purchase Fiasco”

  1. […] Student Gymnasium is not very big. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of fans. I wrote about the headache of purchasing tickets to this game in advance, for fear of a packed arena. Next year I know, the only thing packed on […]

  2. Nice post… the artificially created complexities of the Korean internet billing/purchasing are idiotic…

    As an NBA (Warriors, sadly) fan, I’m looking forward to seeing some games this year…

  3. […] provide cell phone service to me as a foreigner. My first bank wouldn’t give me an ATM card. And purchasing tickets online to any event is the biggest headache imaginable. I’ve gotten used to the long, uncomfortable staring directed at me, an American, and my Canadian […]

  4. […] event tickets ahead of time is quite an ordeal in Korea. I previously documented the process of buying Korean Basketball League tickets for Valentine’s Day. This wasn’t as much of a headache, but it wasn’t easy either. I was informed that Lotte Giants […]

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