Games play on Korea cell phones

Content popular with country's on-the-go consumers

South Korea’s mobile market is rooted in the country’s conspicuous “hurry-hurry” culture. Market trends always change rapidly, thanks to the heated competition of top handset manufacturers (Samsung and LG) and communication service providers (SK Telecom and KT).

This year, Korea’s mobile handset market has been rushed along by smartphones. While mobile phone sales were reduced in general in August, the premium phone market has rapidly expanded. Samsung sold 1.1 million smartphones in August, which grabbed a 55% market share. Manufacturers, of course, are trying to enlarge the market with new models.

How this relates to mobile content isn’t clear, however. Korean consumers are not accustomed to paying for films and TV dramas on mobile — the closed industry structure as well as consumer preference for illegal piracies have made the market quite slow.

The only popular mobile content in Korea might be games. The country’s leading mobile game production companies, Gamevil and Com2uS, are running neck and neck at the content market, at the same time succeeding in global business through app stores modeled after Apple’s one-stop shop for mobile applications.

SK Telecom opened the country’s first app store, named T Store, on Sept. 9, and KT — which has struggled with government licensing issues to join hands with Apple to import the iPhone — plans to open its own app store in November. Software developers expect the app stores will breathe some life in the Korean mobile content market.

“We will definitely support the current

$815 million mobile content industry to make it three times bigger by 2013,” second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism Kim Dae-ki announced at the Mobile Content 2009 event in Seoul, held on the day T Store opened. But nobody knows what will happen in the “hurry-hurry” culture.– Han Sunhee