A month after Apple started selling its iPhone in China, the device expanded its Asian reach Saturday with a much-heralded launch in South Korea.
In keeping with the tradition of waiting in line for hours in advance of an iPhone launch, hundreds queued up overnight outside the Olympic stadium in Seoul to snag the smartphone as soon as it officially landed amid blaring music and strobe lights. The hoopla appeared to far trump the phone's more subdued arrival in China, where it launched in the October cold and rain to smaller-than-expected crowds.
KT Corp, South Korea's second largest mobile carrier (after SK Telecom) and the local distributor of the iPhone, says about 65,000 people have preordered the device, which hit the South Korean market two months after the government approved its sale.
Mobile penetration in South Korea is high--an estimated 93 percent of the country's population subscribes to a mobile service--but smartphones have yet to take off there due to cost, lack of apps, and high data rates by mobile carriers.
"We're hoping that this iPhone will be a trigger point for the smartphone market in Korea," said Yang Hyun-mi, chief strategy officer at KT Corp, according to the Canadian Press. Smartphones make up just 1 percent of all cell phones in South Korea, she said.
KT is pricing the 32GB iPhone 3GS at 396,000 won ($338) for customers who subscribe with a monthly service fee of 45,000 won (about $38). Customers who subscribe with a monthly fee of 65,000 won ($55) can get the phone for 264,000 won ($225). And premium users who sign up for monthly plans based on a 132,000 won ($113) basic rate can get the phone for free.
An 8GB iPhone, meanwhile, can be had for 132,000 won for subscribers signed on the 45,000 won monthly plans.
KT projects that iPhone sales will fall anywhere 200,000 to 500,000 units, a showing that's widely expected to shake up the country's mobile market. For years, the Korea Communications Commission used technical rules to stifle competition, allowing homegrown giants like Samsung and LG Electronics to take over the market, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Watch a South Korean iPhone television spot below.