South Korea: Why So Wired?

Juju Chang sits down with a major South Korean businessman and gadget lover.

June 25, 2010, 9:48 AM

June 25, 2010 — -- Juju Chang sat down for an interview with Yongmann Park, chairman of Doosan Corporation, Korea's giant conglomerate. He's a big-time businessman and also full-time gadget guru. Juju went to his office, embarked on a gadget tour and discussed why Korea is so wired.

Emptying a box full of Park's old cell phones onto his desk, Juju jokingly said to him, "I'm embarrassed for you."

Park, a self-proclaimed "gadget addict," can't bear to part with these past phones. Among his collection is the first version of Samsung's BlackJack, which came out in 2007. The three-year-old phone is among at least 10 others he's recently retired.

In his office, Park has four computers, multiple cell phones he currently uses, and even a portable personal router that allows him to get wide-area broadband access and connect to Wi-Fi.

While Park said he has a "crazy curiosity" for new things, he's not alone. A full 95 percent of households in South Korea have broadband internet access – the highest in the world. Singapore is second to South Korea, with broadband connection in 88 percent of homes. The U.S. ranks 20th, with broadband connection in 60 percent of homes.

Chairman Park said one reason South Korea is so wired is due to the country's housing structure, especially in Seoul.

"If you look out the window, Korea has a forest of high-rise apartments, which is the densely-populated residential area. It will make (it) easier (for) broadband to get connected into those areas. Because you pull one line, then you instantly hook up to a thousand household(s)," Park said.

Park explained the high-rise apartments are much easier to penetrate with broadband service than a typical U.S. neighborhood of suburban homes.

He also suggested Korean society itself is hard-wired for technological advances.

"Korea has been going through a lot of changes in 20th century and 21st century," Park said. "It makes Korean people curious about new things. Because unless you know about what's coming, then, you know… you should know what's coming to make yourself successful."

When asked if he could survive in a world without Wi-Fi, Park was silent for a moment, apparently thinking hard. His final answer? A resounding, "No!"

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