From June this year, the number of registered phone users (60,100,000 /6,010만) surpassed South Korea’s population. How is this possible?
It is becoming more common for people in Korea to use multiple phones. While it is common to own many tech devices like laptops and tablets, owning more than one phone is a new movement. Who are these second-smartphone users and why are they so unsatisfied with using only one?
Surprisingly, owning multiple phones isn’t about having an affair or living a double life. Instead this second-smartphone movement is a natural product of Korean modern culture.
In Korean culture, work life and private life blends into one. Your boss and colleagues become like friends and family, not because you love each other, but in order to maintain good professional relations you are required to be accessible at all times. This means communicating and even working outside of office hours.
The most common way of communicating has become through the messaging app Kakao. Communication through this app is faster and more convenient than e-mails, and more secure than texts. However one phone cannot hold multiple Kakao accounts. One Kakao account is permitted with one phone number.
In regards to etiquette, if a co-worker or boss requests your phone number (or Kakao account), it is almost unheard of to refuse. Therefore if you are involved in a business, your contact number will naturally be exposed to many people. Offering your private life to a professional was a gesture of closeness in the past, but now it is almost like a requirement.
Those who have a business, use one phone for their private lives and one for business. The business phone will have a Kakao account and logs of business relations. This makes it easier to control work communication after business hours, therefore this is ideal for people who have a demanding job.
Social Pressure And Persona
Korea’s nunchi (눈치) culture also plays a part, as social pressures and judgments can be incredibly difficult to manage. I know many people who have multiple e-mail and social media accounts, some anonymous and some using their real identity, in order to control their public image.
Maintaining a good reputation is very important in society. Some people choose to adopt a certain required role in front of family or work, and may want to open up more to close friends. Having multiple phones makes this easier, so why not?
Owning separate devices prevents private lives becoming intertwined with the public’s perception. Many feel the importance of micro-managing their public or business reputation, therefore owning multiple accounts and devices is simply a convenient choice.
Access To Apps
Some people use two phones to simply use both Apple and Android. More and more people in Korea are working in the app or software developing industry, therefore need access to a range of app platforms for their work. In order to be proficient in both Korean (Samsung Galaxy) and International (Apple Iphone) devices, some need access to both.
Korea also has a huge gaming culture. Gamers and tech addicts want to have access to games on android and apple, so some choose both simply to keep up with trends and use the features and apps on both devices.
Some people own a very modern phone, but buy another simpler and cheaper phone in order to reduce distractions. Internet and gaming addictions are very common in Korea, so some people leave their high-quality phone at home, and go to school or work with a simple phone.
Korea has free and fast internet connection everywhere. This is both a blessing and a curse, as people have constant access to streaming and chatting. In order to control and reduce time on their phone, addicts can no longer rely on themselves so they remove temptation all together.
Easy To Buy And Maintain
The single most important thing that has aided the second smartphone movement, is how easy it is to buy and maintain a second device in Korea. Cheap second-hand phones can be easily bought and sold online and at retailers.
Some of the most popular websites are:
Pay-as-you-go and prepaid SIM cards can be easily bought and registered cheaply at phone carriers, convenience stores and post offices. There’s even a ‘bus phone’ (버스폰) , where you can rent a high quality phone for monthly instalments for a few won, and once you are finished, everything is deleted and can be used again by a different person. Even those who weren’t even thinking about getting a second phone may be tempted.
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