San Diego International Law Journal


Edward Choi

Document Type



South Korea is one of the most Internet-savvy countries in the world, with more than 34 million Koreans over the age of six—74.8% of the total population—regularly accessing the Internet. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as of June 2007, South Korea has the fourth largest number of broadband subscribers at over 14.4 million, behind only Japan, Germany, and the United States, all of which have much higher populations. Studies show the time Koreans spend online is primarily for entertainment purposes, as almost 80% of Korean Internet users report online consumption of audio and video, almost 53% play games online, and 41% are engaged in file transfer. This is facilitated by the second fastest broadband network in the world, with a median download speed of forty-five megabits per second, capable of downloading a five megabyte mp3 music file in less than one second. Internet speeds only continue to improve, as Korea is on the forefront of 4G technology, capable of downloading an entire DVD movie file in less than two seconds wirelessly on a cell phone. The fast speeds and widespread penetration of the Internet in Korea, coupled with a large appetite for media and entertainment, sparks a huge potential for Internet piracy. As one of the leaders in the digital world, Korea should be leading the way as an online marketplace for materials protected by copyright. Instead, Korea falls behind many other developed nations in intellectual property protection, with a large amount of Internet traffic devoted to the unauthorized transfer of copyrighted files. Technological advances are constantly increasing the opportunities for piracy, and without proper government resistance, piracy is becoming firmly embedded as an everyday norm in Korea’s digital economy. This Article will examine Korea’s potential as a model for copyright protection to other nations with its current copyright law and enforcement. Part I provides a brief background on the extent of piracy in Korea. Part II will look to the past, providing a background on the extent of piracy in Korea and the historical development of Korean intellectual property (IP) laws. Part III will look to the present status of Korean IP law and enforcement, economic solutions to piracy that domestic companies have used in lieu of weak IP enforcement, and the impact of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on Korean IP law. Part IV looks to the future with proposed suggestions on how Korea can improve its enforcement of IP, and how foreign businesses can better protect their own IP within the current legal framework.