Just in case you didn’t know, South Korea finally opened its economic borders in 2009. In April, the country finally allowed the first foreign mobile phones into the country. Yes, you read that right: Korea was locked into Korean-only handsets till 2009, a fact that was indicated no more clearly than the completely bass-ackward ergonomics of their handset. In November of the same year, South Korea also opened up to smart phones and later allowed the iPhone into the political island. Yes, you read that correctly – every single legal handset in the country was just that, a dumb phone. Now, after only 9 months on the market, the iPhone has sold 1 million units. In a highly populated nation like South Korea, it’s its easy to bump into iPhone users. 45 million people live in a space smaller than Iceland. A few weeks ago, Korea made the news again with incredible iPhone 4 pre-orders. If anything, we’re starting to see the shackles of anti-competitive industry fall off this nation – hooray!
Tucked away from Seoulʼs flashy fashion and meet-market districts is a unique and foreign world. Geeky and lively, Yongsan is home to major electronics companies, importing thoroughfares, haggling hawkers, and most importantly, a thriving distribution/ manufacturing community. This teem of life and business spans the gamut from massive corporations to one-person electronic chop-shops: an organic melange of commerce and concoction. It is also home to SoundCAT, sponsor of Head-fi, and one of the audio communityʼs most diverse and fastidious distributors.
This ain’t gonna be no normal event. There will be a concert on the 28th for 1000 VIPs who will be able to activate and use their new iPhones that day – otherwise, owners must wait till 1 December. And, strangely, that very same group will be able to check out live iPhones on display (in case they don’t care to use their own phones). And, according to iPhoneInKorea, there is a “rich benefit” to top it all off. If I was you and I was in Korea (and I am), I would be excited. A bloody concert!
More after the gap:
While unofficially dubbed ‘next months’s phone’ here in Korea, the iPhone may actually debut next month. Everyone has their doubts as to whether KT will be able to pull their pants up and sell the phone before this year rolls to an end, but according to the JoongAng Daily, the ‘last’ hurdle has been cleared for the coming of our Lord: the Korea Communication Commission have officially approved Apple’s iconic (there is a pun in there too) for sale here.
As I mentioned before, neither LG nor Samsung have a clue how to design mobile phones, but the ever fickle SKT are harbouring thoughts of cranking out Android products from either company rather than selling Apple’s iPhone. On the one hand, Android is a very good platform which I respect; it would make little sense for SKT to pass up the business opportunity afforded by the clever OS. But on the other hand, in serving an LG or Samsung Android, the telecom mogul will only further entrench itself in the quagmire of a stodgy Korean-only oligarchy.
TMA has been following iPhone developments in Korea for a number of reasons: most notably because the tallest member of staff lives here, but also because this market is fiercely closed, monopolistic, and undoubtedly, xenophobic. Well, for the poor louts whose iPhone has been castrated and left to sing the high notes of a glorified iPod touch, there is hope, though typcially expensive. iPhone in Korea, a blog dedicated to just that, recently covered the ins and outs of how to register, and use your iPhone on cellular networks in Korea. It isn’t easy, and as with all things foreign, certainly ain’t cheap, but at least it can be done. Again, this news rides on the cusp of the 2-year feinting publicity stunt which Korea’s carriers get off on: the launch of the iPhone.
When the iPhone comes to these shores in November, it will bring a lot of extra baggage with it. In truth, it is only one of a handful of smart phones which will debut in Korea – a category of phones that may have trouble taking off. Obvious restrictions on data, packages, and other general internet tom-foolery have kept such devices at a wary distance from the tech-savvy nation, but all of that may soon change – in fact, it must.
In a year where the government moved all holidays to weekends so that everyone would stay at work (yep, you heard that right), it is time for a break. Seoul residents, who are behind only Cairo denizens for overtime work deserve a few days off — well, one day off. In this year that simple sucks rocks thanks to a blood-sucking government, even 24 hours feels great. Korea, have a great time on your holiDAY.
Chuseok’s origins are especially hard to pin down in a country whose history is longer than my school demerits, but it is thought to have come down from the eventual mixing of a harvest festival and a weaving contest, both of which originated before the birth of Christ. Yep, whilst the Europeans were wrapping themselves in a rug of body hair from the loins to the back, and dreaming of Valhalla, the Koreans were weaving and maybe dreaming of a day off…
Government-propagated, monopoly-driven, and ignorant of outside technology, South Korea’s mobile business is stagnant. It has suffered the lumbering steps of its giants: LG and Samsung, who bake bread, run hotels, and make German look-alikes cars better than any electronic company in the world. Finally in 2009, the market opened to foreign manufacturers in 2009 and by November, KT are expected to ship the iPhone and other smart-phones to eager customers.
Fair enough: Korean handset internet is almost unusable on the antiquated mobile browsers in this country, but that hasn’t stopped wireless carriers from taking customer’s texting fingers in the deal. Among 15 countries including UK, Canada, and the USA, Korea has the highest fees. But, that is all set to change by the end of this year in a move to lower usage costs by 20%.