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Visions of wired Korea (pictures)

Said to be the most wired country on Earth, South Korea has a love of the Internet and technology that can manifest in unusual ways.

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Tim Hornyak
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1 of 9 Tim Hornyak/CNET

Digital Stations

South Korea was utterly destroyed by war 60 years ago, but its rise from the ashes mirrors that of Japan after World War II. It now lays claim to the title of most wired nation on Earth, with high Internet penetration rates and bold plans for high-tech tools like household robots.

Seoul's transport network is home to Digital Stations, free Internet terminals, and information displays like this one in Cheongnyangni railway station. Needless to say, Seoul's subway is fully wired so commuters can use their cell phones to talk or browse the Internet even when trains are between stations.

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The droid you're looking for

FutureRobot's Furo humanoid robot advises a Korean girl in the Coex shopping mall in Seoul. While its main function is to hold a touch-panel info display, the bot can distinguish people from objects, can respond to questions, and make phone calls to get information.
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Moving mannequins

Robot-like mannequins decked in traditional dress call out to prospective shoppers in Seoul's Myeongdong commercial district.
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Underground school

Seoul's high-tech subway also boasts the Chungmuro Media Center, an underground archive of more than 2,000 DVDs, books, and periodicals, as well as film-editing suites, PCs, and a theater. It's designed to promote filmmaking and appreciation, and also offers affordable film production classes.
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Wiring the woods

South Korea has been tops in broadband penetration, with more than 94 percent of households having Internet access. Here, a worker rigs a high-speed Internet cable at Ssanggyesa temple, a Buddhist sanctuary in Jirisan National Park.
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Northern Telecom

South Korea has even coaxed reclusive North Korea into the cell phone business. These phones on display in an observatory by the Korean Demilitarized Zone were manufactured in the Kaesong industrial complex in North Korea. Smuggled 3G phones from China circulate in the North, which restricts access to the Internet.
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Digital views

The Seoul subway has more than 900 Digital View terminals, touch-panel screens that provide information in several languages. The screens display tourist info, weather updates, 3D maps, and restaurant listings. There's also a phone that can be used with T-money electronic cash cards.
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Old-school telephony

With more than 90 percent of Koreans owning cell phones, you'd be surprised to learn there are still public phones on the streets. This phone in Seoul may be old-fashioned, but it even has a small LCD playing ads while you fish coins out of your pocket.
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Jacked in

There are tens of thousands of PC "bangs," or Internet cafes, in South Korea, like this one in Busan, the second-largest city. It's packed with teenage and adult males playing games like Diablo 3 on LAN lines. More than 90 percent of Korean children use the Internet, and 10 percent to 15 percent of those are said to be at risk of becoming addicted to games and other online activities.

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