Jang’s troubles are part of an industry-wide downturn that has pushed South Korean music retailers to the brink of extinction. About 95 percent of music retail businesses in the country have failed in the last five years.

While South Korea is not alone in seeing a downturn, the drop has been greatly accentuated and particularly deep because of the country’s high-speed Internet access and a youth culture that uses some of the most sophisticated gadgets available.

South Korea’s broadband access per 100 residents is 23.17, almost triple that of the United States and five times that of EU members states.

World broadband leader South Korea has become a hotbed of free music downloading as fans took advantage of file-sharing services including Soribada — South Korea’s version of Napster.

In a country of 48 million people, Soribada — “sea of sound” in Korean — has drawn more than six million users who swap free MP3 files since it launched its service in 2000.

Soribada (www.soribada.net), has been followed by other popular, free Korean-language file-sharing sites, including Donkeyhote (www.donkeyhote.co.kr) and Pruna (www.pruna.com).

Since the launch of these sites, domestic CD sales have nose-dived by nearly 50 percent.

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