Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mobile Phones are Ubiquitous in Korea

The broadband revolution in Korea has received a great deal of attention, but on the 20th anniversary of South Korea's mobile telecommunications industry, it is appropriate to give mobile phones their due.   As the Korea Times noted in an article marking the occasion, mobile phones have long since become ubiquitos in this country.  The article reminded me of an occasion, five or six years ago, when my wife and I were spending our summer vacation on the island of Ullungdo.  We were having an afternoon snack in the main port city on the island and the view in front of us resembled a "sea of squid" as several women worked to hang the fresh catch of squid out to dry in the sun.  Right smack in the middle of this ocean of drying squid was an "ajuma," a towel wrapped around her head to protect it from the sun, talking to someone on a mobile phone.  That image has stuck with me for years. 
These days ownership of a mobile phone is considered to be the right of every Korean citizen.   Note the following quote from the Korea Times article. ``It is the coming-of-age day for the mobile phone. It is not just a means of communications anymore. It is the center of communication,'' said Kim Shin-bae, CEO of SK Telecom. ``It is not exaggerating to say that Korea's IT industry, which accounts for 29 percent of its gross domestic product, started from the spread of mobile phones.''  I respectfully disagree with the CEO that Korea's IT industry started from the spread of mobile phones, and think that historical evidence shows other sources of its rejuvenation.  However, there is no denying that mobile communication is a big part of the IT industry and the information revolution here.  In addition to being ubiquitous, mobile handsets have become the number one IT export from South Korea, currently exceeding the export volume of semiconductors.

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