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updated 1/28/2009 5:41:41 PM ET 2009-01-28T22:41:41

Tech-savvy South Korea has nearly as many cell phones as people, officials said Wednesday.

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There were 45.6 million mobile phone subscribers in South Korea in December in a country with a population of 48.6 million, Sung Suk-ham of the Korea Communications Commission said.

That's over 93 percent, a slight rise in rates from six months ago. The number is expected to rise further in the coming year, despite the economic downturn, Sung said.

While some people have more than one subscription, the figures indicate one of the highest cell phone saturation rates in the world.

Cell phones have become a vital part of everyday life in South Korea, used for shopping, surfing the Web, bank transactions, sending e-mail, listening to music as well as talking.

The country — home to Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, the world's No. 2 and No. 4 manufacturers of mobile phones — also has a high rate of Internet usage.

In addition to an average of 2.75 mobile phones per household, more than 15.4 million South Koreans — just under a third of the population — have high-speed Internet, the commmission said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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