Seoul: The number of smartphone subscribers in South Korea surpassed 20 million last week, with about 40 percent of South Koreans carrying the mobile device, the country's telecom regulator said.

Data released by the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) showed that the number of smartphone users exceeded 20 million as of Oct 28, with 10 million of them subscribing to industry leader SK Telecom Co., 6.8 million to KT Corp and 3.3 million to LG Uplus Corp.

The 20 million users also meant over 80 percent of the country's economically active population of 25 million carrying the smart gadget, reported an agency.

SK Telecom, the country's top mobile service provider, said that the swift development of the smartphone trend has come on the back of various kinds of smartphones and growth policies that include supporting smartphone application developers.

South Korea has witnessed a rapid increase in smartphone subscriptions since the arrival of Apple's iPhone in the country in November 2009.

Smartphone subscribers comprised a mere 1.7 percent of overall mobile phone users at the end of 2009, but surged to represent 14.2 percent just a year later, according to the data.

The growing use of smartphones has brought many lifestyle changes, especially in the way people communicate with each other.

“I can communicate with my friends at any time, in any place, and in any situation, thanks to my iPhone,” said Han Seul-ah, a 20-year student in Seoul.

“Social network services like Facebook and Twitter that are available on smartphones allow me to get real-time information on all my friends,” said 31-year-old Kim Hyun-soo.

The data by the KCC also showed that the smartphone market would be the fastest growing sector in the country's saturated wireless service market as mobile carriers are in a rush to offer faster and larger data streaming long-term evolution services for customers.