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Monday, December 07, 2009, 10:50 am PT (01:50 pm ET)

Apple sold estimated 60,000 iPhones in South Korean launch

In its first day of availability at the end of November, the iPhone sold an estimated 60,000 units in South Korea, giving Apple one successful Asian debut.

According to Digital East Asia, wireless carrier KT Corporation saw a strong sales start for the iPhone in South Korea. To put the number in perspective, Apple's 60,000 iPhones represent 15 percent of 400,000 total smartphones sold in the country in the third quarter of 2009.

"In spite of the fact that the Korean market offers one of the most advanced set of mobile products and services in the world, smartphones only represent about 1% of the total mobile market," the report said. "Executives at KT believe that the introduction of the iPhone could be a turning point for smartphones in Korea."

It's a bit of positive news for Apple in Asia, where most recent headlines have focused on the iPhone's lack of success in China. Last week, it was revealed that China's largest e-commerce Web site sold just five iPhones in their first two weeks of availability. At it was estimated that just 5,000 iPhones were sold at launch on the carrier China Unicom.

In South Korea, the market has long been dominated by native handset manufacturers like LG and Samsung. Those companies were reportedly aided in the past by government regulations that placed restrictions on foreign companies. Samsung and Pantech have an estimated 90 percent market share in South Korea, and nearly 90 percent of the population owns a mobile phone.

Overseas expansion of the iPhone will continue this week, when Apple's handset makes its debut in Israel. Cellcom, the nation's largest wireless provider, will sell the smartphone beginning Wednesday at midnight local time, and competitors Orange and Bezeq Israel Telecom will offer it Thursday.

Israel reportedly has one of the highest global mobile phone penetration rates, at 125 percent. An estimated 80,000 unlocked iPhones already exist in the country.