Koreans online

©Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon

One country with an exemplary record in broadband is Korea, host of the 2008 OECD ministerial meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy. On broadband reach it is the seventh in the OECD in December 2007, for fibre-optics it lies second only to Japan and is well ahead of the rest of the field, and for download speeds, it is in a comfortable third, after France and Japan. Korea is also a leader in mobile technology.

Some 94% of households had access to broadband via computers or mobile phones in 2006, three times more than in 2000, and many hotels and public places provide broadband connections for free. In fact, Koreans are so “wired” that Internet addiction is now seen as a treatable condition (see Databank, page 40). OECD’s Taylor Reynolds* explains more.

How strong is Korea’s Internet performance really?

Korea has been a world leader in broadband since the OECD began collecting statistics. Its broadband penetration rate five years ago would still be above average in the OECD today. There are three times as many 3G mobile subscribers in Korea than wired broadband subscribers. It was the first country to roll out mobile WiMAX. This allows Koreans to have Wi-Fi type connectivity, even while riding in cars, etc. Koreans also commonly watch television on their mobile phones, while riding public transportation to and from work. Koreans can pay for items at grocery stores or public transportation simply by swiping their mobile phone in front of a reader.

What explains this consistent performance?

The Korean government has focused on innovation as part of their national economic strategy and broadband has been a key component. For instance, the government made public broadband terminals available throughout the country in government offices to combat the digital divide.

Families also put huge emphasis on education and many households cite improving their children’s education as a key reason for subscribing to broadband. As a result, students commonly use Internet cafés (“PC Bangs”) for gaming instead of playing games at home in front of their parents.

Any challenges, despite these successes?

For a start, while Korea has the infrastructure to support telework, it needs the business culture to exploit it more fully. It lacks the compelling “triple play” broadband packages that we can find in other parts of the world (packages that combine Internet, telephony and television). Also, Korea produces huge amounts of content for the domestic market which could be translated and made available to wider audiences.

*Taylor Reynolds works in the Information and Communications Policy division of the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry.

©OECD Observer No 268 June 2008




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017