Sunday, April 15, 2012

The rise and fall of Korea's PC Rooms (a.k.a. Internet Cafes)

In recent years I have posted on occasion about the phenomenon of South Korea's internet cafes, known here as PC Rooms or PC Bang in Korean.  Last July, I took note of the declining numbers of PC Rooms.
Just this past week, The Korea Times carried an article that elaborates on the decline of PC Rooms. The article notes that "A recent survey on Internet cafe owners by the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business showed that 64.5 percent of them have been in deficit for the past year; one out of three was barely breaking even, and only 1.8 percent saw a profit. Six out of 10 said their business seemed in bad shape, and 34.5 percent said it was very bad."  Then, as I suggested last year, the article goes on to document mobile games and the arrival of the smartphone era in Korea as major reasons for the decline.  Indeed, we might suggest that the decreasing popularity of PC Rooms here is another aspect of the so-called "smart-phone shock" that has rippled through South Korea's market since the arrival of the iPhone in late 2009.    The graphic accompanying this post is an updated version of one published in my book with Dr. Myung Oh, Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society, (click on the graphic to see a larger version). I have not yet been able to find the data for 2009, although it appears that the number of PC Rooms began to drop sharply that year.  Note also that the peak number of PC Rooms, 22,548, appears to be correct based on multiple white papers published by the Korea Game Industry Association.  (I mention this because the graphic from the Joongang Daily article last July has a different figure, 23,548 and may have been a typo).

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