The Adoption and Use of the Internet in South Korea


  • Kyung Yong Rhee,

    Corresponding author
    1. Senior Researcher, Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute in South Korea. Currently he is a researcher with the World Internet Project, in which many countries are involved. His particular focus is the Internet and privacy in the workplace.
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  • Wang-Bae Kim

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor, Sociology Department, Yonsei University, South Korea. He participates in the World Internet Project as a representative of South Korea. He has intersts in electronic surveillance and work attitudes.
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Address: 34-4 Bupyung-gu Kusan-dong Inchon, 403-711, Korea, Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute. Tel: ±82-32-5100-909.

Address: 134 Shinchon-dong Seodaemoon-ku Seoul, 120-749, Korea, Department of Sociology, Yonsei University. Tel: ±82-2-2123-2432.


Recent surveys indicate that the rapid rate of Internet use in South Korea is one of the highest in the world. Indeed, as the one of leading nations for high-speed broadband access, South Korean Internet users virtually dominate the entire gamut of Internet activities-everything from web searches to games to Instant Messenger (IM) chatting-and are one of the leading consumers of on-line shopping for services and goods (“e-commerce”). Even popular social movements have gone “on-line” in South Korea with civil organizations effectively mobilizing their resources through Internet networking.

However, a widespread disparity in Internet use has recently come to light in South Korea. In particular, Internet use has been clearly divided by generations, which threatens to create a “new” generation gap and the possibility of further generational conflict in a society already marked by deep generational cleavages. In this paper, we touch upon the adoption of the Internet on the basis of research data that examines the digital divide on a national scale. We examine socio-demographic factors, attitudes toward the Internet, social supports (family support, in particular), and the influence that Internet access has had on the South Korean populace, paying particular attention to diffusion theory which has been considered the most feasible explanation for South Korea's rapid Internet adoption. This research indicates that Internet adoption in South Korea is influenced more by family support than by other characteristics. On the basis of this analysis, this study suggests that comparative studies need to be conducted on a macro level as well as within the socio-cultural context of the particular country.