In the recent WWDC 2009, Apple announced iPhone 3G S and gave the list of countries the phone will be available - Korea wasn't included in the list this time again. Korea is just about the only developed country that doesn't have an iPhone yet. When countries like Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Qatar are getting their iPhones soon (nothing against those countries, by the way) and yet South Korea, the world's 11th economy, isn't getting one, there's something seriously wrong there.
Including my friend Danny, Korean bloggers are not hesitating to express their disappointments over the no-iPhone news. Both SKT and KTF, the leading carriers of Korea, have been in talks with Apple to introduce iPhone in Korea, for quite a long time. But both companies seemed to have backed out a little bit now, saying they couldn't strike mutually beneficial business deals with Apple. Well, that's just a polite way of saying that Apple demanded too much. But then, given the huge success of iPhone, Apple may actually deserve to demand much. Now carriers have to admit Apple's got the upper hand in the smartphone game.
But it might actually go deeper than that. Out of fear to become "dumb bit pipes", Korean wireless carriers have been working so hard to transform themselves into digital content empires by acquiring content companies and building a tight control over the content value chain. But iPhone is all about getting out of carrier value chain: web browsing on WiFi networks or App Store downloads have nothing to do with carriers. So the fact that the carriers haven't yet fully recouped their massive content investment might be the true reason, or at least part of the reason, why Korea still doesn't have an iPhone yet.