Smartphone and Internet Reshape the Lifestyles of Koreans

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The number of mobile phones owned by Koreans has exceeded six million in 2017. This is far beyond the total population of Korea. Changes that started with smartphones and the internet have an impact on all aspects of Koreans’ lives.

Even family life is becoming “smart.” Home temperature control, cleaning, maintenance, and house chores are automatically managed in cooperation between smartphone and robot. Refrigerators, installed with Internet of Things technology, can buy out-of-stock groceries and utilize big data to adjust the purchase schedules of fish, salted fish, fruits and vegetables, while processing the payment via the homeowner's smartphone. As such, the home has changed dramatically to include home automation and smart systems.

Bus stops and subway stations are equipped with electric signboards showing the status of all buses and subways. It also tells you the first and last buses, intervals between busses, and the number of passengers onboard.

Smart farms and animal husbandry have begun increasing in rural areas. The Korea Rural Development Agency started providing farmers with smart farming tutorials, developed smart barns utilizing ICT, and developed technology to collect and analyze biomarkers such as livestock behavior, respiration, pulse, and cough. This system improves livestock productivity by up to 30% and labor force by 25%.

The financial industry is also changing. FinTech, a portmanteau of finance and technology, is leading the reform of the financial industry. A foreign bank has announced it will reduce its number of branches by 80% in early 2017 and convert existing employees into telephone counseling and online business. The decision seems to be a measure that takes into consideration the fact that younger generations in Korea under 30 are making financial settlements with their smartphones and Internet banking rather than going to banks. The Korean Internet bank, which was launched in response to the trend, is shifting the center of Korea's financial transactions to smart phones.

Adverse effects from the spread of smartphones are also increasing. There are growing concerns about “smartphone zombies” in Korea. Newly coined words such as “Korean bump”, “shoulder bang” (bump), and “phone-fly” (smartphone + firefly) imply impoliteness caused by smartphone users unaware of their surroundings.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 5% of Koreans over the age of 18 are close to being addicted to smartphones.

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