South Korea frowns on steep phone subsidies, bans new carrier customers for most of January

South Korea is an ocean apart from North America in more ways than one. Where US and Canadian carriers virtually center their businesses around heavily subsidized phones, the Korea Communications Commission is discouraging the idea. The agency isn't just fining KT, LG U+ and SK Telecom for offering device discounts beyond 270,000 won ($252), it's banning those networks from taking new subscribers for as many as 24 days in January -- they'll have no choice but to serve their existing bases for most of the month. The providers are unsurprisingly miffed, although the punishment may be a win for customers who won't necessarily be as indebted to their carriers when they spring for a Galaxy Note II or Optimus G.