Rule change allows BlackBerry phones in South Korea

A slight modification in South Korean telecom rules has finally allowed RIM to offer its BlackBerry phones to users there. Now, after an agreement with SK Telecom, BlackBerrys can be sold on the South Korean market.

Up to now, Research in Motion has not been allowed to sell BlackBerry phones in South Korea because of laws that give a competitive edge to domestic companies, such as Samsung and LG Electronics. Those two companies have a combined 80% control of the South Korean market.

The South Korean cell phone market is one of the largest in the world, yet typically is closed off to foreign companies. The government there maintains those laws are in place to help protect domestic companies from foreign competition, and to help build up smaller companies so they can compete with larger competitors from outside its borders. But recently, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a vow to help spur further competition through deregulation.

This is not the first Asian market where RIM has faced legal obstacles to entry. BlackBerry officially entered the Japanese market in September 2006, but has been outsold by Japanese mobile phone manufacturers.

Apple has been rolling out its popular iPhone throughout Asia; and like RIM, it must request permission before being able to roll out the iPhone in South Korea. Nokia doesn't sell any phones in South Korea, while Motorola offers only a small number of phones, with just 5% of the country's market share.

RIM's inclusion into the South Korean market comes at the same time the company announced the BlackBerry Bold, its latest and perhaps to date its most competitive model with the iPhone.

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