The good news is that you can get fast Internet pretty much anywhere in Korea. More than 90% of Korean homes are wired. Korea is the world's leader in high-speed fiber (68% of all fixed connections). Even more remarkable: between mobile phones and data-only connections, Korea has 10% more wireless internet connections than it has people.

PC Bang on the second floor Your cost for wired internet at home will be 25,000 to 30,000 won per month (about US$23-27). If you share an apartment with other teachers, you'll probably split this cost, and you won't have to sweat the setup. If you have your own private apartment, you'll probably need some help from a Korean friend when you sign up for your intenet.

You can always use your mobile phone, but the data won't be cheap. A mi-fi hotspot might be a better deal, but it still won't give you unlimited data. See the Mobile Phones FAQ entry for more information on these options.

Korea also still has a fair number of PC-Bangs (literally, "PC rooms," or what we'd call Internet cafes). There you can use fast broadband for 1000 to 1500 won (about US$1 or so) per hour. The computers run Korean Windows, so good luck with that; but if you can do what you want to do in Internet Explorer, you should be OK.

One warning, though: PC-Bangs get crowded, noisy, and smoky at peak gamer periods. The nonsmoking areas are mostly useless. To avoid this, go weekdays from late morning to early afternoon.

So, getting fast Internet is not a problem. Getting free (as in freedom) Internet is. Korea was the world's first country to censor the net. They started in 1995. Isn't that special? It means that websites that Big Brother doesn't approve of are taken down if they're in Korea, and blocked if they're not.

Subjects under the censor's hammer include:

  • Political dissent and activism against goverment policies (Korea has no First Amendment equivalent)

  • Gambling, pornography, and nudity

  • Illegal drug information

  • LGBT issues (!)

  • Some cosmetics and health foods (!)

  • North Korea (!!)

Yes, you read that right. South Korea blocks websites that talk about North Korea. They must think that South Koreans who read about the poverty-stricken, isolated, underfed people of North Korea will want to defect or something. Seriously?

In 2003, before Twitter and Facebook, young progressives got together through such web portals as OhMyNews and elected Roh Moo-hyun president. Five years later, when the conservative Grand National Party returned to power and Lee Myung-bak was elected president, the GNP set out to ensure that that wouldn't happen again. They also wanted to be sure that no one could oppose or criticize them without being named, harassed, and/or arrested. They passed a law effectively making net anonymity illegal. Websites with over 100,000 visitors per day were required to register their visitors with their real names and Korean national ID numbers.

And yes, they busted bloggers.

In 2011 and 2012, Korea's Constitution Court ruled that the government couldn't restrict online political campaigning, and also overturned some parts of the 2008 law. But the ruling had loopholes, so Koreans still aren't always able to stay nameless on the net.

Reporters Without Borders says that Korea's net censorship is about equivalent to Russia's. That should really give you pause. Freedom House isn't quite as negative; as of 2015, they rate South Korea's net freedom as 34 out of 100, where 0 is a perfect score (the US scores 19 and Canada 16). Still, Korea is in the same net freedom range as Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia, Uganda, and Ukraine, not exactly a neighborhood to be proud of.

How will all this affect you? The real name nonsense probably won't, unless your Korean is outstanding and you plan to spend a lot of time with Korean websites. (By the way, did you know that if you get politically active in Korea, they'll bust you and send you home? Not kidding.)

As for the filtering and takedowns, that's just plain odious. Your defense against this is the same as it is anywhere else that censors the net: sign up for a vpn in a more informationally-enlightened nation.

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