August 11, 2004 5:56 AM PDT

South Koreans face digital divide

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Internet usage has soared in South Korea--unless you're an older woman living in the countryside.

More than 68 percent of South Korea's 45 million people aged 6 or older now use the Internet, according to new government figures. But young men in the cities are by far the most likely to be Net-savvy.


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Since the start of commercial services in 1994, the Internet population has been steadily increasing to a point where it is now nears the penetration rate of mobile phones.

Still, South Korea's Internet success has spawned something of a digital divide between ages, sexes and regions.

More than 95 percent of those aged 6 to 29 periodically go online, compared with 86.4 percent of those in their thirties, 58.3 percent of people in their forties and just 27.6 percent of those in their fifties.

The survey also showed that Internet usage stands at 74.4 percent for men, compared with 62 percent of women. Around 70 percent of urban inhabitants use the Internet, while only 46.2 percent of people who live in rural areas go online.

Korean Internet users spend an average of 11.5 hours a week on the Web, an hour less than six months ago. Seventy-three percent surf mainly to search for information, 54 percent play online games and 33 percent use e-mail.


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More than 45 percent of respondents said they are a member of at least one Internet community and 37.1 percent of use instant messaging.

With 30.67 million Net surfers, according to the report, Korea became the fifth country in the world to join the 30 million club, following the United States, China, Japan and Germany.

The usage data came via a biannual survey of 17,347 residents from 7,030 households across the country, conducted by the MMinistry of Information and Communication and the National Internet Development Agency in June.

Seung eun Myung of ZDNet Korea reported from Seoul.

 

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