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KOREA: 70% of Koreans Use Internet

Population's internet savvy ranks with the world's best; newest users are middle-aged citizens

The Korea Times
Monday, January 31, 2005

By Kim Tae-gyu

Up to seven out of 10 South Koreans go online periodically, reaffirming the nation's staunch status as an Internet powerhouse, according to a government survey.

The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) said Monday that Korea had 31.6 million Internet users at the end of 2004, up 2.4 million from a year earlier.

Internet users, which officials define as those who access the Web for one hour or more a month, made up 70.2 percent of the nation's 45 million people aged six or above.

The results of the nationwide study, which was conducted last December on 17,535 people aged six or above in 7,042 households, have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 0.67 percentage point.

"The 70 percent-plus Internet usage rate puts Korea in the higher echelon of the world ranking. Perhaps only Iceland has a higher rate than Korea," MIC official Paek ki-hun said.

Iceland boasted a 67.5-percent rate as of the end of 2003, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Paek explained that because the ITU rate is a comparison of Internet users from the overall population without any age limitation, Iceland actually has a leg up over Korea.

"When translated to the standard of the ITU, Korea's Internet usage rate would amount to 65.2 percent," Paek said.

Unlike the past, when youngsters led the Internet fever, people in their 40s and 50s spearheaded the year-on-year hike in 2004. The former saw their rate surge to 62.5 percent from 51.6 percent and the latter also witnessed an 8.3-percentage point rise to 31.1 percent.

In comparison, the nation added few new users last year from those aged between six and 29 as the rate in the bracket inched up a paltry 1.1 percentage point to 95.8 percent.

Despite the substantial progress of middle-aged users, the survey revealed that a digital divide is still a grim reality in sex, age and region.

Among them, the demographic gulf is most serious as the gap in usage rate between teenagers and 50-somethings amounts to 65.2 percentage points.

Around 17.06 million men (75.9 percent) accessed the Internet regularly last year compared to 14.52 million women (64.6 percent), for an 11.3 percentage point difference.

Those polled said that they connected to the Internet at an average of 11.7 hours a week last year, down 0.8 hours from 2003.

Asia Institute