Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cutting the Cord: Mobile Telephone Growth in South Korea

An article in today's Joongang Ilbo notes the dramatic change in mobile communication that occurred in South Korea over the past two decades. Just looking at a picture of the mobile telephone that was introduced prior to the Seoul Olympics in 1988, one gets a clear understanding of why the term "brick" entered the vernacular here to describe older, bulky and heavy mobile handsets. The first mobile phones in Korea cost around 4 million won ($3,824), weighed 1.3 kilograms and were 23 centimeters long. It was only in 1996 that the size, weight and cost of mobile handsets in Korea allowed them to diffuse rapidly through the population. The bar graph included here shows that growth in popularity of mobile phones. Today, more than 90 percent of the people in South Korea own a mobile phone. This statistic only underscores the digital divide with North Korea, which just this year engaged Orascom to begin building mobile networks in its larger cities. The ubiquitous presence of mobile phones in South Korea their universal use here offers a little glimpse into the future of mobile handsets and the "ubiquitous networked society" that this nation is consciously building.

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