According to Akamai’s Q4 2015 rankings, South Korea has an average connection speed of 26.7 Mbps and an average peak connection speed of 95.3 Mbps, thus ranking 1st in the world in terms of Internet connectivity.
According to a 2017 estimate, there are roughly 52 million people currently living in South Korea.
Korean Internet Penetration Rate
Stats published by Internetlivestats.com assert that 85.7% are connected to the Internet. It is among the highest internet penetration rates in the world.
Types of Connections
The Internet infrastructure in South Korea is primarily defined by the existence of dial-up and broadband connections, the latter being the prominent type of connection. About 10% of homes use dial-up to access the Internet.
Broadband access is primarily divided into DSL, Cable and Satellite connections. Of these, DSL (ADSL and VDSL specifically) is the most widespread type of broadband connection in South Korea.
The Internet industry belongs to the private sector, and is divided between a handful of ISPs. Specifically, there are three companies that pull all the strings on the local market: KT Corp, SKBroadband and LGU+ (previously DACOM). Apart from providing broadband access, these companies also lease lines to smaller companies and operate Internet datacenters in Seoul and Incheon.
According to stats published by Numbeo.com, getting Internet access in South Korea is easy and fairly cheap. As such, a basic subscription to the Internet, comprising speeds of 100 Mbps, with unlimited data, on either DSL or Cable technology, starts at approximately $22 per month. This is great value for money if we take into account prices in other countries where the Internet infrastructure is not as developed, such as the United States or Switzerland.
Below you can find some of the most important characteristics of the Internet in South Korea:
1. Broadband is the predominant type of connection
While rare, dial-up still exists in South Korea, and there are continuous attempts made to complete the conversion from dial-up to broadband. According to stats published by ptc.org, broadband access currently experiences very fast-paced advancement. Currently, 85.7% of the population is connected to the Internet, with more than 80% being connected via broadband. South Korea is also the first country in the world with more than 55% of homes using FTTH/B connections.
2. Industry belongs to the private sector
The Internet industry in South Korea is very advanced and only continues to be prosperous due to very liberal legislation imposed by the government specifically to help companies develop the industry as much as possible.
3. Strict censorship. Stern copyright laws
Even though South Korea boasts the fastest Internet speeds in the world, it remains a very restrictive country in terms of freedom of expression, especially when it comes to expressing oneself on the Internet. According to the Telecommunication Business Law, there are a few government agencies that carry out surveillance on the Internet. KISCOM, for example, is empowered to impose ISPs to block access to “subversive communication”, “materials harmful to minors”, “cyber defamation”, “sexual violence”, “cyber stalking”, etc. It should also be noted that – explicit – pornography and gambling are strictly illegal in South Korea, and those found to access content related to either are severely punished. On the other hand, copyright legislation in South Korea has always been quite restrictive by nature. According to a wide array of criticisms given by numerous NGOs, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the copyright law gives too much power to copyright holders, which in turn generates further limits on the freedom of expression and thus boosts censorship.
In recent years, there has been a lot of debate as to why South Korea has probably the best Internet infrastructure in the entire world, and this is a very justified concern from an outsider’s perspective, considering that South Korea is the 11th economy in the world measured by GDP, while the United States is, as expected, the first economy measured by the same criterion, but is among the countries with the poorest quality of Internet connectivity in the world.
There are a few causes that have paved the way for the South Korean’s Internet success. They are as follows:
1. High population density
Population density is the number of people per unit of area, usually quoted per square kilometer or square mile. In South Korea, the population density is very high (19,544 per square mile, third in the world for countries with more than 10 million people). To put in contrast, the United States only has a population density of 89 per square mile. This means that, as soon as Internet technology advances, South Korea can wire the entire country with upgraded technology for an infinitesimal cost, compared to what the United States would incur if the decision to upgrade were to be taken.
2. Preplanned by the government in the 90s
The South Korean government foresaw the future success of the Internet, and decided to take action in consequence, so much so given the fact that, in 1995, the country had only one internet user for every hundred citizens. In the same year, the government put forth and executed the Korean Information Infrastructure project, a 10-year program that started with laying Internet infrastructure between government buildings and slowly rolled out in the entire country by 1998. The program’s success was undeniable: By the year 2000, South Korea had managed to connect nearly 20 million of its 45 million citizens.
3. Private Industry
The government played and still plays an important role in the further development of the Internet, but the biggest contribution is still made by private companies. Specifically, the private sector is conducting some of the most cutting-edge technological R&D in the world. South Korea is renowned globally for its unique so-called culture of cooperation between public and private sectors, the former ensuring that the latter can expand freely by imposing liberal legislation with very limited restrictions.
4. A lot of demand generated by the gaming industry
Video games are considered to be a major social activity in South Korea, which is why most games are either cooperative or competitive. Considering that most of these games are played online and that great connectivity to the Internet is compulsory, the private sector strives to meet this demand as much as possible by implementing cutting-edge Internet infrastructure.
Currently, there are 15 colocation datacenters distributed across two areas in South Korea. These are Seoul, with a total of 14 datacenters, and Busan, with only a datacenter. Important colocation datacenters in South Korea include KT Gangnam DC, KT Yeouido DC, KT Mokdong 1st DC, Pacnet Seoul and Kdatacenter. All the aforementioned companies provide comprehensive information of their datacenters and the benefits that they provide with their colocation services. Mutual benefits include:
– Month-to-month commitment on request
– Leasing of cages, rack space, cabinets and enclosures
– Direct access to major domestic exchanges and Points of Presence (POPs) within Korea
– Redundant carrier networks for local access
– ISO-9001 compliance
– 24/7 security and engineer personnel
– Free – or almost free – cabling and equipment installation
The web hosting industry in South Korea is generally developed, and is divided between many companies. All companies offer core services, such as Shared, VPS or Dedicated Hosting, divided into multiple plans that cater to different budgets and hosting needs; some plans are subsequently divided into plans for individuals and businesses alike. Most plans can be subscribed to monthly, but Shared Hosting is usually provided on an annual basis without exceptions. Value for money is good, but all features are capped to specific limits – exceeding these limits may incur additional costs. You may opt for additional services such as SSL certificates, website builders, antispam tools, etc. Support for international languages is very limited, which means that the companies generally cater to a local clientele only.
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