How Information Technology is Transforming Korea - Part 2
How Information Technology is Transforming Korea - Part 2
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  • 승인 2007.11.29 15:12
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by Chun Go-eun

toclair@ittimes.co.kr

This Korean old saying comes from the agricultural days of Korea: "A dog's life beats a human's." As they looked at a dog playing in the field, farmers came to think that their dogs were faring better than them. But guess whose life beats a dog's these days Mobile phones'. Unlike dogs, mobile phones don't have to try so hard to be loved or stay by their owner's side. All they have to do is sit and look pretty.

In 1996, when mobile phones were first introduced to Koreans, they were the size of refrigerator and very expensive. This was eight years after Samsung invented a 700g mobile phone, SH100, for the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Koreans probably never would have imagined that one day they would be hearing a phone ring from their jean pocket in a public bathroom.

The mobile phone, indeed, is the only object in the world that is guaranteed to accompany a person through all their daily activities. From bathroom to subway, and from bed stand in the morning to bed stand at night, mobile phones are asked to escort their owners and they do so without a fuss. The invention of mobile phones and their content development are changing the culture and lifestyle of Koreans. 1,200,000 new mobile phone subscribers were inducted in the beginning of 2007; 86% of the entire population now uses mobile phones.

Subscribers who are younger than 10 and older than 60 increased twice as much in three years, and development of 3G and USIM technologies are boosting the telecommunication market. With this trend, experts predict that 100% of the population will soon be using mobile communication in Korea.

According to telecommunication companies, the mobile communication subscriber rate was going up slowly from 35,000,000 in 2004. The number increased a bit in 2005 setting the record as 38,340,000, and 40,200,000 in the year 2006. But in the beginning of this year the number increased by 1,200,000 and set a new record on the mobile phone supply rate. From 2001 to April 2007, the entire population only grew by 1,000,000, but the mobile communication subscriber rate increased by 12,400,000. Part of this comes from subscribers who subscribe to multiple phones for different purposes.

Subscribers who open 3 to 4 lines are actually increasing. Some of them open a line for their foreign friends since foreigners face many restrictions to opening a phone in Korea. More subscribers who use double lines are expected to increase based on the mobiles' various functions and service qualities.

It is no longer prestigious to own a mobile phone as it once was in the nineties. Although brand new phones with the newest embedded technology are still pricy, the price of the standard mobile phone is reduced down to an affordable rate with a subsidy and marketing plan. The various payment plans are customizing subscriber demand as well. As a result, mobile phones serve Koreans as a portable pet. Koreans are no longer bored to wait in line or ride transportation.

How many people are looking down at their cell phones in the subway these days How many people on the street walk on as they talk on the phone How many people are playing games on their phone while waiting in line at the hospital for an exam The numbers are increasing everyday. Phones with different content and functions, therefore, are constantly petted and checked on. Those who love music buy the phone that has mp3 features while TV lovers prefer the phone with DMB features.

Game lovers will look for a phone that is slim, and the older generation will look for the phones that are accommodating. Three years ago, most public transportation riders slept, read a book, or sat still until they reached their destination. Now, most of the population is accompanied by the mobile phones in their daily trips, because their faithful portable pet has plenty features to entertain them. Users can also log onto the internet wherever they are and download cartoons, games, music, and educational content. Students no longer have to shuffle through vocabulary notebooks while they are using public transportation. They can download electures for an affordable price and watch the content and learn. Another thing that is also popular amongst young subscribers is text message services.

With KTF, for instance, 500 text messages are given a month for an additional charge of eight dollars.

Because of these, the subway now has a fast mobile phone charger that people can use for a quick charge. It costs less than a dollar to do so, yet most prepare an extra battery to be continuously entertained.

The expansion of the mobile phone is changing the culture of Korea. For Koreans who valued the word respect the most, the mobile phone was nothing but a disgraceful object when it first came out. Thus, in the nineties when the phone first came out, those cell phone users who had a ring at work or during a meeting had to either kill the ring or answer the phone with a crouching body and mouth-covering hand. But now that a decade has passed it is completely natural for the users to either answer the phone or reply by text message during the meeting, whether it is formal or informal. The phone rings are heard even in public bathrooms and the phones are answered with no hesitation.

What about text messages Isn't it more polite to have real time communication over the phone and make a proper greeting before getting to the point But the culture has surely closed its eye to text messaging, making it acceptable to drop a line or two to anybody in the user's circle. Instead of making a phone call to let a friend know you will be ten minutes late, quickly sending a text message will help you to be less rude.

Let's go back a little bit; how did we make an appointment to meet someone when we didn't have mobile phones It was not too long ago when people had to set the time and location to meet up together. As some of the old movies show, it was common for older generations to wait a decent amount of time at the promised location, sometimes because they arrived too early and other times because of the appointee's delay. The older generations' patience is no longer something that the younger generation practices. People these days make a phone call to each other before departure and make sure that they are still on schedule.

The modernists not only sleep and eat with the phone; mobile phone tags along with them anywhere they go like a name tag. The mobile is like a transformer. Not only does it function to allow real time communication, but it works as transportation card, TV, mp3 player, game console, and school nowadays. Certain websites like Cyworld allow making payments via mobile phone. The United New Democratic Party recently took mobile voting to choose one presidential candidate to represent the party at the upcoming election. Who would've imagined voting for presidential candidates on the phone

Who would've imagined using an ebanking system on the phone several years ago The mobile phone is 86% of the populations' pet, secretary, entertainer, and banker and having a great impact both in Korean's daily life and traditional culture.


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