Apple Eyes Samsung's Territory With South Korea Store

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Once limited to the US, Apple stores have spread across the globe in recent years (like Shanghai, pictured above), in a constant expansion that mirrors the company's conquest of the high-end smartphone market.

One of the last frontiers in the developed world for Apple stores is South Korea, home to Apple's archrival Samsung. Now, Apple is considering opening its first South Korean retail outpost near Samsung's three-story global flagship store in Seoul, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal says Apple sent retail executives to South Korea to check out potential sites for the store, which could open in the next year.

Apple downplayed the rumor, telling the Journal that "we have made no announcements about a store there." But South Korea is a glaring hole in the Apple retail store empire, especially as Cupertino turns its attention to opening stores in India and other less-developed markets. And establishing a store in Seoul, where Samsung and LG are king, would send a strong signal that Apple wants to take on its competitors on their home turf.

The top three most popular smartphones in South Korea are the Samsung Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S7 Edge, and the LG G5, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are both in the top 10, though, which means a sizeable number of South Koreans are turning to third parties to buy their Apple phones, or picking them up on trips abroad.

Another Asian country without Apple stores is Singapore, where a couple was arrested last week for trying to buy an iPhone 7 at a third-party store in Changi Airport. Lines were so long at stores in town that the couple bought plane tickets they had no intention of using so they could access the secure area of the airport, the BBC reports. If convicted of the country's Protected Areas and Protected Places Act, they face a fine of up to $735 and a jail term of up to two years.

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