The Joongang Daily has an interesting article, including the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version), on the declining number of PC bangs (PC Rooms or internet cafes) in South Korea. As noted in the article,PC bangs enjoyed their heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. After the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998, many people who lost their jobs opened PC bangs to survive.
Government regulations are thought to be partly behind the decline of PC Bangs.
One new restriction to take effect by the year’s end is the Cinderella law pushed jointly by the culture and family ministries. Under the law, PC bangs cannot offer online games to anyone younger than 16 from midnight to 6 a.m., in the hopes of curbing game addiction among Korean minors.
There is also a regulatory question over whether PC Bangs are allowed to sell cup ramen or green tea to their customers. Jo, a 37-year-old owner of a PC bang in Imun-dong, central Seoul, was recently hit with a fine. He was guilty of pouring boiling water into a customer’s cup ramen, and someone caught him with a camera and filed a report.
“I was told that if customers pour the water themselves, it’s OK. But if I pour the water, I’m guilty,” Jo said. “There are many cases in which owners served green tea, and ended up paying a 500,000 won fine.”
In addition to the regulatory issues raised in the Joongang Daily article, I would simply note the reality of the mobile broadband revolution, ignited in Korea with the arrival of Apple's iPhone in late 2009. The fact that people can easily use their Android devices, iPhones or tablet computers in coffee shops and public wi-fi hotspots all over the country, has undoubtedly lessened their interest in PC Bangs.