In the past phones and TV sets were the symbol of wealth in Korea. In the 1960' there weren't many households having a phone or a TV set in Korea. Those days one or two households in a village had a phone or a TV set. Only rich people could have both a phone and a TV set.
This is clear when considering the telephone services subscriber rate in the 1960'. The telephone services subscriber rate marked 0.3 percent in 1960, indicating 3 persons per 1,000 Koreans had their phone. However, these days almost all houses own their phone and TV set.
Phones or TV sets aren't the symbol of wealth any longer. Mobile phones made their debut in 1984. At that time very rich people possessed mobile phones because their price recorded 3,310 thousand won. In early days of wireless telecom services, they put on airs by using mobile phones of fairly large size in a luxury car.
Nowadays even elementary school students carry their own mobile phones. In 1984 persons having their mobile phones amounted to just 2,730 Koreans. In the meantime 40,200 thousand persons subscribed to wireless telecom services in 2006. 83.2 people per 100 Koreans have their mobile phone. Why are Korean elementary school students able to possess a mobile phone? They are sure to press their parents for the phone. Let us think of the background to their purchase of mobile phones.
There may be two reasons. First, the prices of mobile phones aren't expensive as before. Prices range from 200 thousand to 600 thousand won, which is much cheaper than the early days. As the technology of wireless telecom services develops, their quality has greatly improved. The decrease in prices and the increase in the serve quality enables students to have a mobile phone. According to the law of demand, people tend to buy more when prices drop and to buy less when prices rise. It is said that even elementary school students become the subscribers of services as an effect of the rule of demand.
Second, household living standards have been much better than before. In early days of wireless telecom services, the prices of mobile phones were very expensive and Koreans' living standards weren't so good as most of Koreans could buy mobile phones. So only a few wealthy people were able to purchase them.
How about today's household living standards? According to the statistics, per capita GNP in Korea amounted to 18,342 dollars in 2006, up 8.1 times compared to 2,257 dollars in 1984. Korean parents can afford to buy their child a mobile phone as their income increases. This shows the fact that statistics are like a mirror of social changes.
* This article was an excerpt from the book titled "Interesting Stories within Statistics" published by the KNSO.