The country has long kept its mobile market closed in order to protect and improve LG Electronics and Samsung.
South Korea said Wednesday it would be opening up its cell phone market and allowing Apple to sell its touch-screen iPhone in the country of about 48.6 million people.
The country is widely known to use regulatory means to protect its cell phone market, and this has played a strong role in homegrown Samsung and LG Electronics becoming the second- and third-largest handset makers in the world, respectively. Roughly 93% of the population has a mobile phone subscription, and these users are known for their heavy usage of mobile data and applications.
It is not clear when Apple's touch-screen device would go on sale or for which provider, but the country's second-largest cellular operator, KT, has already been in negotiations for months regarding the iPhone. It is also unclear how well the iPhone will sell in South Korea, as the market is already full of highly advanced smartphones that outpace Apple's device in terms of features.
Japan has a similar high-tech cell phone market as South Korea, and the iPhone was a relative flop when it was first released there last year. Apple's touch-screen smartphone has picked up steam lately though, and it has helped Japanese carrier Softbank grab a larger percentage of the mobile market.
Apple continues to seek new markets to sell its smartphones in, as the majority of iPhone users are in the United States. The South Korean announcement comes about a month after Apple struck a deal to sell the iPhone in China through the carrier China Unicom. The Chinese market is a large and relatively untapped one for high-end devices, and although China Unicom is not as large as China Mobile, it surpasses the subscribers of AT&T and Verizon Wireless by more than 40 million users.
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