Living in South Korea has a lot of perks, including but not limited to fast and easy access to the internet. However, there are existing restrictions on the type of content you may provide or receive in South Korea. Of course, there are ways to circumvent the restrictions that bound your access to the internet.
One of the most effective ways to have access to the information you are not privy to is through the use of Virtual Private Networks, more commonly called VPNs. But before delving on to the benefits of having access to a Virtual Private Network, it would be helpful to read more on the extent of your internet freedom, especially if you live in South Korea:
Internet Freedom in South Korea
The internet structure in South Korea is relatively well-developed, and people generally have a good experience online when talking about specific technical aspects like speed. Free speech is enforced in South Korea, and it is extended to the online experience, but it does have some exceptions that may not be beneficial to most. The Korean Communications Commission allows sensible traffic discrimination under net neutrality, but the safe harbors in South Korea are more limited compared to US DMCA.
Here are some of the most important details you should note if you want to know about the online experience in South Korea:
- Free speech
South Korea’s constitution enshrines the idea of a free press and free speech, especially in its Article 21. It even protects the right of access to information. However, South Korea’s constitutional provision on free speech does have limitations—
“Neither speech nor the press shall violate the honor or rights of other persons nor undermine public morals or social ethics.”
This section empowers the South Korean government to censor certain content online that they may classify as prohibited, such as:
- Comments critical of the South Korean government or sympathetic to North Korea. This is considered as political dissent, and websites and tweets holding such sentiments are usually blocked. South Korea’s legal grounds to block such content are empowered by the contents’ classification as subversive communication under the National Security Act.
- The distribution of pornography is illegal in South Korea, and pornographic websites that are based abroad are also included in the blocked content in South Korean servers. While servers in foreign countries are only blocked, there’s a total shutdown enforced on pornographic websites hosted in South Korea. There are online “Net cops” that help the government identify and deal with websites having pornographic content in South Korea.
- South Korea criminalizes online or cyber defamation of individuals, especially on public figures like politicians, celebrities, and businesses. This is enforced under the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection. The need for stringent laws on online defamation was initiated due to the suicide of a famous actress due to online rumors.
- Right to privacy
You will be able to find sections on privacy protection in Articles 16 and 18 of the Korean Constitution. As an extension of such protection, the Personal Information Protection Act was established in 2011. It sets standards in data collection and storage of personal information in South Korean online databases and websites.
Additionally, South Korea has established the Information and Communications Network Act of 2012 to protect the resident registration numbers of citizens, limit websites when it comes to collecting such numbers, and require businesses that collect such information to protect the data they have.
From 2003-2001, South Korea enforced a law to require individuals to use their real names in an effort to improve online civility and reduce criticisms on public figures like politicians, but a study by the Korean Communication Commission concluded that it had little effect in quelling opinions online. By 2012, the Korean Constitutional Court declared the law requiring the use of real names as unconstitutional.
- Access to internet
Data from a 2012 OECD study has concluded that South Korea ranks among the highest when it comes to countries having broadband penetration, with 95.1% of the population having access to the internet. It also ranks as one of the countries that offer the fastest average speed at 22 Mbps.
- Net neutrality
Back in 2011, the Korean Communications Commission established its Guidelines for Net Neutrality and Internet Traffic Management. In general, this requires transparency when it comes to the management of online traffic and prohibits the blocking of legitimate content. However, this allows companies to do reasonable online traffic management.
South Korea experiences more restrictions when it comes to expressing opinions online compared to other countries. Of course, the government couldn’t just delete or block all types of content online. There are still guidelines when it comes to doing so, but the terms being open to interpretation often leads to the exploitation of the online defamation provisions.
Nonetheless, when it comes to people’s general access to the internet, South Korea is one of the top countries in the game.
About South Korea
South Korea is a country located in East Asia with a population of 51,446,201 as of 2017. It has a total area of 100,363 square kilometers, which is 3.7 times smaller than Japan. In 2014, the Bloomberg Innovation Index has named South Korea as the world’s most innovative country, and it has won that commendation for 6 consecutive years.
As of 2017, South Korea has 43,940,000 internet users, with 95.1% internet penetration among the population. South Korea is home to one of the world’s leading mobile vendors— Samsung. For that reason, it boasts of 81.6% mobile phone internet usage as of 2016, which is set to increase to 88% come 2021.
The most used social networks and applications in South Korea are KakaoTalk, Facebook, Twitter, LINE, and Instagram. Of all the internet users in South Korea, about 73% use KakaoTalk daily, making it the biggest online companies in the country.
There are 3 majors ISPs in South Korea: KT Corporation, SK Broadband, and LG Uplus. As for its top tech companies, the top 5 are Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, KT Telecommunication Services, Com2uS, and Daum Communications.
South Korea is also known for its influential pop culture, especially on its Korean Dramas and K-pop—better known as the Korean Hallyu Wave.
Why You Need a VPN in South Korea
Since South Korea does censor certain websites and content, having a Virtual Private Network to host your online activities will definitely widen your access to online materials. But apart from that reason, here are some ways a VPN can help you if you live in South Korea:
- Research sensitive information without government interference
As mentioned, South Korea do have restrictions when it comes to the terms you can search for online. This is especially true if you search for information about North Korea and other government-sensitive information. Your internet activity will not only be blocked, but it can also be monitored in the worst case.
That is the reason why you need to have a VPN if you live in Korea. To have factual and unfiltered access to information, you must have the freedom that VPNs provide. Complete your research now with the use of VPNs!
- It gives you the chance to access location-based content.
There are numerous contents online that you may want to access, but are only available within certain regions. Take, for example, the BBC iPlayer—access to this feature can only be done if you live within the UK. With the help of a VPN, you will be able to read, watch, download, and stream indefinitely even if the website you want to access has limited and location-based restrictions.
- It protects your computer from hackers when in public networks.
Sometimes, connecting to public networks in coffee shops and airports may not be advisable. There are malicious networks that will try to gain access to your files, including but not limited to your bank details and passwords. To prevent this from happening, you should have a VPN to safeguard your computer from external access.
- You will be able to save money when purchasing items online.
Nowadays, online shopping is gaining ground as one of the top platforms for commerce. However, there are cases when similar merchandise from the same supplier has a different price, depending on the country you are buying from. With a VPN, you can switch servers to see which offers the best price for the item you’re interested in purchasing.
- You can save money when booking flights.
Like online prices of specific merchandise, plane fares vary depending on where you’re booking your flight from. Sometimes, it might be cheaper to book flights using the server of a different country. Since you have a lot of server options in VPNs, you can shop around and choose which country gives the best prices for the flight you want.
- It allows you to download torrents safely.
South Korea has a strict copyright law, which means that you may be vulnerable to legal issues when you download torrents in the country. When you have a VPN, you will be able to safeguard your location and IP address in order to prevent authorities from tracking you.
- It increases your internet speed.
Although the internet speed in South Korea is already faster compared to other countries, there might be times when you may experience lags due to signals bouncing around different servers. When you have a VPN, you will be able to try using different servers during lag times, making your internet experience better as a whole.
Though people generally have good internet experience in South Korea, there are still times when the restricted and filtered content can leave people frustrated. In order to reap the numerous benefits that VPNs can provide (including but not limited to unfiltered content), you need to find the best VPN service provider available. Read up on more details regarding VPNs to open a treasure trove of online content in South Korea.