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Internet use shifts dramatically to smartphones

Korea has seen a major shift to smartphones for internet activities over the last five years, with a corresponding decrease in the use of desktop PCs, according to government data Friday.

A study by the Ministry of Science and ICT showed that between 2012 and 2017, the proportion of households that owned smartphones rose from 65 percent to 94.1 percent, while those that owned computers dropped from 82.3 percent to 74.7 percent, with a 20.1 percentage point drop in desktop PC ownership.

Part of the change was driven by the rise of single- and two-member households, which showed the largest decrease in computer ownership over the five-year period. These smaller households are only half as likely to own a computer compared to households with three people or more.

Major internet activities, such as online shopping, online banking, and social media, all showed shifts to smartphones from desktops.

In particular, respondents who said that they used their smartphones for shopping rose from 23.8 percent to 90.6 percent over the five-year period, while those who used smartphones for banking rose from 29.2 percent to 90.5 percent. 


“The rapid popularization of smartphones was largely influenced by the movement of internet-based activities to smartphones,” the ministry said in its release. 

Enjoying content on smartphones has also increased rapidly, according to statistics from the Korea Communications Commission. Among respondents in last year’s survey, roughly half said that they used their smartphones at least once a week to play videos, while about 25 percent said that they used their smartphones to play TV shows at least once a week. 

For textual content such as newspaper or magazine articles, nearly four-fifths of respondents said that they used their smartphones.

Among respondents who said that they used their smartphones to play TV content, the proportion was highest among respondents in their teens and 20s, indicating that the younger market for TVs may be on the decline.

Last year, 56.4 percent of surveyed respondents said that they felt their smartphone was the most important device for their everyday life, while 38.1 percent said that it was their TV. In 2013, TVs had remained in the top spot with 46.3 percent of respondents saying it was their most important device, and smartphones at 37.3 percent.

By Won Ho-jung (