Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Revisiting the Rise and Fall of PC Bangs (a.k.a. Internet Cafes) in Korea


As readers of this blog will know, I've long been following the introduction, growth and decline of PC Bangs (literally PC Rooms), also known as Internet Cafes, in South Korea.   A search for "PC Bang" will locate a number of my earlier posts and provide some background on the main factors accounting for the emergence of PC Bangs and their eventual decline.  The graphic presented here charts the number of PC Bangs in Korea from their introduction in 1998 through 2020, as estimated by the Korea Creative Content Agency in their annual white papers on Korean games. (click on the graphic to see a full size version with the numbers legible at the top of bars)  Several patterns in this graphic are noteworthy.

First, the explosive growth in the number of PC Bangs from 1998 to 2000 coincided with the rapid growth of broadband internet services, led by Thrunet's cable modem service, followed shortly thereafter by Hanaro Telecom's entry into the market with DSL service.

Second, the decline in number of PC Bangs starting in 20010 coincided with the arrival of Apple's iPhone to the Korean market.  This arrival came two years after its introduction in the U.S. and after it had become popular in about 80 other countries.   2009 was also the year that Samsung and LG began manufacturing Android smart phones.  The improving technical capabilities of Android and Apple smart phones contributed to the growth of mobile games, at the expense of those played in PC Bangs or Arcades.

Third, from 2016 to 2019 there was a slight resurgence in the number of PC Bangs as Internet Cafe franchises entered the market and owners adapted to government regulations about the sale of food in them.