A Brief History of the Internet in Korea


Kilnam Chon, Hyunje Park, Kyungran Kang, and Youngeum Lee


The TCP/IP network in South Korea started in May 1982, one of the earliest Internet deployments in the world. The initial TCP/IP network, called SDN, consisted of two nodes with 1200 bps bandwidth. SDN served the research and education community with primary focus on network research, and had international links with UUCP initially. The international links cover several countries in Asia, which is called AsiaNet, as well as Europe and North America. In parallel to TCP/IP development, the communications on personal computers using bulletin boards and others also proliferated. These two network developments along availability of WWW made explosive Internet growth in 1990s. These developments resulted in the leading broadband country with various applications.
The Internet is becoming the social infrastructure in Korea lately with many aspects of daily life are done through the Internet including social and political activities. Convergence of the Internet with telecommunications and broadcasting is taking place now.

1. The Pre-Internet Period

Basic Internet Technologies and Concepts Proposed The 1960s was the period that saw the birth of technologies and concepts that were to become the foundation of the Internet. In 1965, the concept of "packet switching, which was to become the fundamental technology of the Internet, was proposed.

Domestic Network Developments

During the period between the late 1960s and 1970s, efforts to construct domestic computer networks were launched in countries such as France, UK, and USA. The most notable one is ARPANET(Advanced Research Project Agency Network) in USA in 1969.

2. Birth of the Korean Internet, SDN

SDN Begins Operation

Korea's first Internet system, SDN(System Development Network) began its operations on 15 May 1982. A computer at the Department of Computer Science at Seoul National University was connected to another computer at Korea Institute of Electronics Technology(KIET) in Gumi (Presently ETRI, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute) via a 1200 bps leased line, and in January 1983, a third computer at KAIST(Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) was connected to the SDN, which resulted in a system that could be described as a network of computers. Since TCP/IP is one of the communications protocol used among the computers connected to the SDN, this can be noted as Korea's first Internet.


SDN was connected to the mcvax in the Netherlands in August, 1983 by using UUCP(Unix-to-Unix-Copy), and in October of the same year, it was connected to the hplabs in the United States. Since UUCP was a protocol that was already installed in UNIX computers, there was the advantage of not having to install additional protocols, and thus could be expanded not only to overseas computers but also to domestic computer nodes with relative ease. 
In the U. S., CSNET(Computer Science Network), a network that connected universities and research institutions that had not participated in ARPANET, had been constructed. SDN was connected to CSNET in December 1984, and this connection was utilized as a forum for exchange of technology until SDN was formally connected to the U.S. Internet in 1990. However, services such as the FTP could not be used because of the U.S. government's restrictions on connections to the ARPANET.
Thus, only e-mail and news(USENET) services were available with USA. Moreover, because of the extreme high cost of international phone lines, a large portion of the USENET data had to be received in magnetic tape format by regular postal mail rather than via online connections.

Hangeul e-mail

In 1983, a Masters thesis on the development of a mail system using the Korean character set was
reported in KAIST, and experiments on e-mail using the Korean character set was initiated. In 1985 a Korean e-mail program and a Korean editor program, called hvi was developed, enabling people to send and receive e-mail using Korean characters through SDN. In addition, in May 1984, Dacom began its commercial e-mail service through DACOM-net.


From 1983, SDN was connected to various sites in Asia in addition to North America(hplabs and seismo in USA, CDNNET in Canada), and Europe(mcvax in the Netherlands). The network linking Asian countries was called AsiaNet, and included Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and Singapore.

3. Global Internet Connection, early 1980s

Use of the .kr Domain and IP Address

In the mid-80s, the progression of a series of critical events enabled the Internet in Korea to meaningfully participate in the global Internet. In July 1986, the first IP address( for Korea was assigned. In 1986, rules for second and third level domains under the .kr domain were established and the country code top level domain to represent Korea, .kr, was formally in operation.
Also, computers in KAIST and others were registered as the domain name server for the .kr domain(for example, sorak.kaist.ac.kr) establishing the infrastructure for allowing not only domestic but also international open access to the computers using .kr as its domain name.

Establishment of Internet Policy Centers

As the use of the Internet expanded to domestic and then to the international networks, there was a need to establish a mechanism to systematically and efficiently manage Korea's domestic Internet use.
Thus the ANC(Academic Network Committee) was formed in 1988 as the association that would perform this function. The ANC was composed of the ANC Steering Committee, consisting of representatives of ANC and other necessary committee members, and its technical sub-committee, the SG-INET, consisting of members involved in the everyday operations of networks. The ANC assumed the role of representing the Korean Internet society, and was involved in managing the use and assignment of domestic domain names and IP addresses as well as connections with overseas networks, and represented Korea in international network associations. The ANC changed its name to KNC (Korea Network Committee) in 1994 and then to NNC(Number and Name Committee)in 1998, and continued to operate as a civil organization establishing and recommending domestic Internet policies.

PC Communications

In addition to efforts to provide network services centered on the Internet, another type of network service was developed in the 1980s. This was the PC Communications, which began in 1984 as Dacom's Hangeul Mail, and then was consolidated in 1986 as Chollian. The KETEL(Korea Economic Daily Telepress) service that began in 1988 was reorganized as Hitel and became the most prominent PC communications service. This type of online communication using the PC communications operated as a separate service independent from the Internet until 1995 when regular PC network users were able to connect to the Internet using commercial networks. The most notable significance of the PC communications is that it contributed to the development of the concept of online communities.

The PACCOM Project

In 1989, the University of Hawaii was the focal point of the plan for PACCOM(Pacific Communications Networking Project), connecting Australia, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand. In Korea, many member institutions of SDN agreed to jointly fund the 56 Kbps leased line to Hawaii, and established an organization named HANA for this purpose. In March 1990, a computer at KAIST was connected to the University of Hawaii via satellite at 56 Kbps, and the HANAnet was constructed. Until then, charges for international connections to UUCP, and CSNET were based on the amount of data packets. Thus, international Internet connections were highly limited. But after the establishment of connections with PACCOM people could use it with relatively little limitations. Data traffic figures for Internet applications during this time show the highest usage in FTP, followed by Mail, Telnet, Archie, and DNS. In August 1992, The main gateway equipment and the operation of the HANAnet and SDN were transferred from KAIST to KT(Korea Telecom). Thenceforth, HANAnet of the KT research center gave birth to KORNET, KTs commercial Internet services. Since the construction of HANAnet, SDN was used to designate domestic networks and HANAnet was used to designate networks connected to the global Internet, and the name SDN slowly lost recognition, resulting in the decision by ANC in 1993 to no longer use the SDN name.

PCCS(Pacific Computer Communications Symposium 1985)

In 1985, a conference focusing on computer networks, PCCS(Pacific Computer Communications Symposium), which was one of the world's first conferences on the Internet, was held in Seoul, with approximately 300 Internet experts participating from Asia, Europe and North America. Considering that the next global conference on the Internet was held in the early 1990s, this conference was a highly advanced conference. This also displays the active and leading role played by Korea in the global Internet field. In addition, the PCCS provided the impetus for the annual meeting of JWCC(Joint Workshop on Computer Communications), a meeting of Asian computer network experts was held annually with the meeting venue alternating between Japan and Korea initially. The participants of the JWCC expanded gradually, resulting in its development into ICOIN (International Conference on Information Network).

4. Prolification of the Internet among Research & Education Community, early 1990s

National Infrastructure Project 

In July 1983, the plan for Five National Information Network Project which included National Administrative Information Network, and Education and Research Network Infrastructure among others was established, and the legal basis for pursuing the plan was put in place by legislation of Legislature #3848, "Law on Expansion of Network Infrastructure and Use" on 12 May 1986. Based on this law, the government of Korea established a Committee on Management of Networks to evaluate and manage policies related to the construction of the national information networks and began a government-led construction of the national information network. In June 1988, it was decided that construction of the Research and Education Network, one of the national information networks would be divided into Research Network and Education Network. The Research Network was operated by the System Engineering Center(presently KISTI) which belongs to the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Education Network was operated by Seoul National University which belongs to the Ministry of Education, and the construction of each network was launched. Both networks, the Research Network, KREONet(Korea Research Environment Open Network) and the Educational Network, KREN(Korea Research and Education Network), are still currently being used to connect many research centers and universities, respectively.

Voluntary Research on Network Technology by Experts 

SG-INET was established in 1991 to perform the role of developing, implementing, and operating technologies by establishing subcommittees of working groups on naming, routing, Hangeul, and security. The activities of these working groups resulted in many achievements such as; the naming working group providing the fundamental infrastructure for the establishment of KRNIC, the Hangeul working group developing the IETF standard for Hangeul mail, and the security working group establishing CERT Korea. Many experts in network operation organizations such as KREN, KREONET, KAIST, ETRI, SNU, NCA, Dacom, KT, Samsung and Goldstar participated in SG-INET.


In 1992, Korea Network Information Center was established in order to provide a network information management function for all Internet services that had been under the supervision of ANC. Up to that point, the registration of domain names on the Internet and administration of network information had been performed on an individual network basis. However, because the magnitude of domestic Internet was growing and because there was a global trend for establishing network information centers within continents as well as individual nations, the Korea Network Information Center was founded. KAIST had been consigned to run the Korea Network Information Center since January 1993, In September 1994, its central functions were transferred to the National Computerization Agency, and in June 1999, an independent corporation named KRNIC was created to take complete charge of domestic network information administration functions. In 2004, based on the Internet Address Resources Law. The National Internet Development Agency of Korea was founded in order to perform the administrative function of Korea's domestic Internet address resources.

Standardization of Hangeul Encoding

Existing e-mail programs were able to deliver mail without error only when Roman characters and numbers were used, and mail sent in Korean characters were damaged, making it impossible for the receiver to read mail sent in Korean characters. In December 1991, a Korean mail program, Hangeul elm, was developed according to the Hangeul Encoding Standards(ISO2022-KR) which designated principles for encoding Korean Hangeul characters into Roman characters and numbers without corrupting the content. The encoding method used for this program was then further developed and recorded as an RFC document of the IETF(The Internet Engineering Task Force) in 1993 under the title, Korean Character Encoding for Internet Messages, which was the first RFC document by a Korean submitted to IETF.

World Wide Web Begins

In the 1990s the global Internet experienced a revolutionary transformation in the Internet technology called the World Wide Web, and in Korea the first web site, cair.kaist.ac.kr, was set up and operated at the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research(CAIR) at KAIST in 1993.


The 1990s was a period when Internet technology made a dramatic development globally as well as domestically. One reflection of this could be found in the first KRNET(Korea Network Workshop) was held in Seoul in 1993. This workshop continues to be held annually, providing a forum for introducing new trends in Internet related technology, facilitating exchange of technology, and promoting cooperation among technical experts.

5. Commercial Internet

Commercial Internet Service Begins

In the mid 1990s the Internet, which had only been restricted for use in universities and research institutions up to that point, became available to businesses and individuals. Several commercial Internet services were initiated in 1994, beginning with KORNET by Korea Telecom in June, 'DACOM
InterNet' by Dacom in October, and nuri.net by Inet Technologies in conjunction with Nowcom in
November. Commercial Internet services in Korea has since developed into a major industry in Korea, with approximately 30 Internet service providers in operation in 2004.

KIX - Commercial Internet eXchange

In order to have the commercial Internet service providers operate with other Internet service providers, the National Computerization Agency established an exchange, called KIX (Korea Internet eXchange). The first step was to connect the Educational Network and the Research Network in February 1995, and after March, eleven commercial Internet Service Providers(ISPs) such as Inet and Nowcom were connected. In November that year, an agreement was made for an IX(Internet Exchanger) system that would have the National Computerization Agency(NCA), Korea Telecom, and Dacom be the hub(i.e., IX) for connecting and managing domestic Internet, and commercial ISPs were transferred to the commercial IXs(Korea Telecom, Dacom) by December 1996. Also, in June 1999, the Korea Internet eXchange Association, composed of many ISPs, set up a neutral Internet exchange named KINX(Korea Internet Neutral eXchange).

Internet and the Mass Media

In March 1995, the Joongang Daily News began its first Internet news service and in October that year the Chosun Daily News launched its Digital Chosun Daily News. Moreover, webzines(short for web magazines), news sites that exist independently, not in conjunction with printed newspapers, were introduced in September 1996 with the launching of im@ge by Inet and rapidly began to proliferate. In addition, in 1996, the era of e-commerce, where things could be searched and purchased from the web sites instead of at the stores, began with the opening of Interpark and Internet Lotte Department Store.

Internet Expo

The 1990s was a period when the Internet was rapidly becoming popularized. In 1996, an international Internet Expo was held on the Internet, an global event held with the purpose of encouraging the expansion of Internet use and to utilize the Internet that had been constructed. This event provided a range of opportunities for experimenting with the rapidly developing WWW technology and other Internet technologies by using a web site on the Internet as the gallery in place of a physical one. In Korea, this was an opportunity for the venture businesses to introduce their technologies domestically as well as internationally and further develop them, as well as an occasion for encouraging the news media to be involved in online operations. In addition, this provided the momentum for encouraging public organizations in Korea to establish web sites.

Internet Ventures

Many ventures on the Internet started their operations in 1990s as the commercial Internet service were deployed. Some of them led the Internet industry, and they include Ahn Chul Soo Laboratory on virus protection, Daum on portal site with email service, NCsoft and Nexon on online game, and Naver/NHN on search engine.

6. Broadband Internet

Widespread Availability of Broadband Internet

Until the late 1990s, individual home users of the Internet had a maximum connection speed of only 64 Kbps with dialup service. However, this changed when Thrunet began to provide broadband Internet services in July 1998 with approximately 1Mbps connection speed using cable TV networks, and Hanaro Telecom and KT joined in the broadband Internet provider race through the use of ADSL(Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) technology. In 2004 the number of home users with broadband Internet access exceeded 11 million, which covers over 70% of the households in Korea.
The widespread availability of broadband Internet services provided the impetus for Korea to become the leading Internet stronghold nation of the world. Such a leap in the development of broadband Internet stimulated the expansion of various multimedia services and provided the foundation for an evolution into a ubiquitous networking made possible by a convergence of broadcasting and telecommunication and wireless Internet services provided by mobile phones as well as broadband Internet.

Factors in the Expansion of Broadband Internet

In the late 1990s when demand for services provided by the Internet was increasing but Internet access from individual homes was not common, Internet cafe, or 'PC bang' that provide the general public with Internet access began to appear. The first domestic Internet cafe is NET that began operating in Seoul on 15 September 1995. The number of Internet cafes gradually increased, reaching 15,150 by the end of 1999. In addition, the number of online gamers increased, and PC bangs was at the core of such a phenomenon. In 1998, an online war simulation game called Starcraft was widely played by general public, and PC bangs were the center for such games. Youth in their 10s and 20s provided the impetus for the increase in demand for online games, and it could be said that such a demand contributed greatly to the distribution of Internet access to individual homes.
Using online stock trading based on the Internet enabled easy stock trading without having to physically visit the stock brokerage. And Internet banking services enabled withdrawal or transfer of funds without visiting the bank. Because it was so convenient, approximately 11,310,000 users, which are about 30% of the total population of November 2001, were found to be registered users of Internet banking

7. Social Impact of the Internet

Negative Impact of the Internet

Although the Internet is making our lives more convenient, it also has negative impacts on our society. There is an increase in the number of people who are addicted to specific services on the Internet, most notably online games and indecent information, and are unable to lead normal everyday lives. There are web sites that plan suicides and actually carry them out. Criminal acts of obtaining and using other peoples personal information by means such as hacking have occurred. In addition, there are other negative incidents on the Internet such as the bombardment of unrestricted spam mail that unnecessarily consumes people's time and the spreading computer viruses through e-mails, obstructing business operations.

Governmental Efforts

In 1995, the Ministry of Information and Communication(MIC) established the Information Communication Ethics Committee in order to prevent and evaluate the negative effects of network communication. In addition, institutions such as the Internet Crime Investigation Center, Center for Internet Addiction, and Korea Spam Response Center were established by cooperative efforts between the government and civil societies and are involved in activities aimed at circumventing the negative effects.

Balance between Individual Freedom and Regulation of Negative Impacts

Efforts to address the negative impact of the Internet have the danger of infringing individual's freedom, and additional efforts to thwart such dangers have been concurrently pursued. In 2000, the Ministry of Information and Communication(MIC) had attempted to legislate the Internet Content Rating System when it was revising The Act on Promotion of Information & Communication Network Utilization and Information Protection. But this effort was annulled due to civilian opposition. Article 53 of the aforementioned act that allowed an order of the Minister of Information and Communication to place certain restrictions on electronic and telecommunication businesses in dealing with certain types of information was ruled partially unconstitutional in 2002.

8. Netizens

It was in the early 1990s that individuals of the general public were able to express their political and social opinions through the Internet. As part of its support program for developing countries, 'Sustainable Development Network Program (SDNP),' the UN established SDNPs in many countries including the one in Korea, which was hosted by YMCA. The anonymity and easy access afforded by the Internet prompted various people to set up and operate web sites and express more diverse views. In August 1997, the supporter club for the national soccer team selected the Red Devils as its official name, and in November 2000, the Red Devils opened its home page and provided the major impetus for the massive cheering crowds in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Games in Korea-Japan. When two middle school girls were killed by a U.S. armored tank in June 2002, on-the-street candle light vigil by netizens and online memorials spread throughout the country. In addition, during the December 2002 presidential election, there were many active online and offline campaigns organized and played out by many netizen groups such as a support club for Mr. No Moo Hyun, People Who Love No Moo Hyun(Nosamo). These netizen groups did not spring up suddenly with the introduction of the Internet. Rather, they are extensions of online communities that were formed through the PC communications in the early 1990s, using the Internet as their newer communication medium.


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2012.1.25문의: Sec at InternetHistory.kr