The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has received governmental approval to sell the iPhone in South Korea. The move appears to mark a substantial opening of one of the most closed mobile phone markets in the world.
The commission's action comes after months of consumer pressure. For much of this year, the commission's reason for blocking the iPhone was that its built-in mapping capabilities violate a South Korean rule requiring the use of domestic technology for location-based services in cellphones. In its decision Wednesday, the commission created an exemption in the rule for iPhone.
"This is a big strike for the government in saying that this is an open market," said Chung Yun-ho, managing partner of Veyond Partners, a telecom consulting firm in Seoul. "Many people regard Korea as an advanced telecom market but they are acknowledging that we are lagging behind in smartphones. They wanted to pressure the telecom companies to embrace new things."
An Apple job posting in July 2008 suggested that Apple was looking to launch the iPhone in South Korea, although it has clearly taken considerable time for the company to work through various regulatory obstacles there to gain approval. Last month, claims of a deal with wireless carrier KT again sparked interest in the market. KT, however, has backed away from that statement, noting only that it continues to be in talks with Apple.