Apple iPhone gets South Korea launch

South Korean consumers have placed more than 53,000 advance orders for the Apple iPhone.

Ahn Young-joon/AP
A model of Apple iPhone 3G is displayed at an Apple store in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday. The iPhone's arrival in South Korea is generating considerable buzz among consumers and industry watchers amid expectations it will shake up a market dominated by world-beating domestic manufacturers.

On Saturday, South Korean consumers will finally be able to get their hands on an Apple iPhone – more than two years after the top-selling smartphone launched in the United States. (There's something to be said for drumming up a little anticipation.) According to the Associated Press, more than 53,000 advance orders have already been placed by Korean consumers.

For years, strict regulatory barriers kept Apple from bringing the iPhone to South Korea. But a much-lauded September ruling from the Korea Communications Commission helped open up the cell phone market. In South Korea, the iPhone will be powered by KT Corp., a local wireless provider.

"This is phenomenal," Hwang Sung-jin, an analyst at Prudential Investment and Securities, told the AP. "The iPhone's release will definitely stiffen competition for local companies such as Samsung and LG."

In late October, China Unicom rolled out Chinese editions of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS – the first of Apple’s best-selling devices to hit the world’s most populous country. The 8-gig Unicom iPhone 3G currently sells for 880 yuan, or $861; the 32-gig model goes for the equivalent of more than $1,000.

But the iPhone was not greeted especially warmly in China. According to Reuters, China Unicom has signed up only 5,000 iPhone subscribers in the week after the launch, which was well below most optimistic estimates. In a conversation with Reuters, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster called the figures a “disappointment."

“We believe that eventually China will emerge as a major market for iPhone sales but it could take a year or two to gain meaningful unit traction as it did in the U.S.,” Munster wrote in a research paper.

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