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Posted : 2008-06-10 18:43
Updated : 2008-06-10 18:43

IT Regulation Prevents Korean Access to iPhone


Apple CEO Steve Jobs
By Cho Jin-seo
Staff Reporter

Korea's isolation in the global IT business was reaffirmed when Steve Jobs announced that the new iPhone will be ``affordable for almost everyone'' in the world ― but not here.

``We're going to be rolling out in 70 countries over the next several months. We are really thrilled with this,'' the Apple CEO said to the tune of the Disney song ``It's a small world.'' ``Next time you are in Malta and you need an iPhone 3G, it will be there for you.''

In the annual conference of Apple, the celebrity American CEO said that the upgraded version of iPhone will be released in 22 nations simultaneously on July 11, and in 70 nations within this year, from Portugal to India and from Japan to Madagascar.

South Korea was not mentioned during the conference. The presence of two of the world's largest mobile phone makers ― Samsung and LG ― has encouraged the government to shut its door to foreign-made mobile phones by using non-tariff barriers. Along with iPhone, the Nokia, Blackberry and Sony-Ericsson phones are virtually not allowed to be sold here.

``Korea is not ready,'' said a manager of Apple Korea Tuesday. "We have no comment on iPhone matter in Korea, also, there is no plan to release any further information about launching of iPhone in Korea"

In 2003, the government imposed a unique software platform called WIPI on mobile phones on sale, hoping that this industrial standard can save firms from unnecessary competition and overlapping investment. But as phone technologies advance, this regulation has become a stiff trade barrier for foreign makers who think it is not cost-efficient to redesign their products only for the South Korean market.

``Why is this country blocking import of foreign-made cell phones while it is allowing import of foreign beef, which should be stopped?'' a citizen said on Cetizen, the largest mobile phone community on the Internet. Most other comments were gripes about the government's protective telecom policies.

Several phone companies such as Nokia and RIM ― the maker of Blackberry smartphone _ have tried to lobby the Korean government to abolish the WIPI requirement and let them sell phones of their own design, but they have not succeeded.

Only RIM managed to get a partial approval for the sale of Blackberry phones for business users from July. The Korea Communications Commission eased the regulation last month as a token of hospitality as it is inviting RIM's CEO Jim Balsillie to Seoul for the OECD Ministerial Meeting next week, an official at Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said.

KTF, the second largest mobile service operator in Korea, has been trying to sell iPhone in Korea. KTF's public relations official Lee Youn-joo said that there has been no advancement in their talks with Apple.

In San Francisco, Jobs showed that the new iPhone has more advanced features such as GPS map navigation, longer battery life and faster mobile Internet than the previous model he unveiled a year ago. Yet, the price for the basic model has lowered from $399 to $199, which is much lower than similar touch-sensitive smartphones from Samsung, LG and other makers.

indizio@koreatimes.co.kr

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