Saturday, October 18, 2014

President Park Geun-hye elaborates on Korean unification at the U.N.

Last month President Park Geun-hye addressed the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.  While addressing a number of regional and international issues, the speech elaborated on her vision for Korean reunification, a frequent topic of this blog over recent years (for example, see these posts).  Her address, as published by UN Web TV, can be viewed below.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Half of chaebol board members from SKY schools or overseas

An infographic published by The Korea Herald caught my eye this morning, headlined "Half of major firm's board members come from SKY, overseas schools."  The text accompanying the graphic noted that "Almost half of the executives at affiliates of the nation’s top 10 companies were found to be graduates of South Korea’s leading three universities or from schools abroad, according to, a website devoted to conglomerate data. Up to 594 ― or 23.9 percent ― of the 2,483 surveyed executives were graduates of Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University, while another 22.6 percent were from overseas universities as of last year." Although anecdotal, this is further evidence that Korea, unlike Japan, embraced study abroad to train many of its leaders and technocrats in recent decades. Indeed, it would be interesting to make a quantitative comparison with Japan on this dimension of corporate leadership.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Echoes of Eisenhower: Feffer and Pastreich on a "farewell to arms" in Northeast Asia

The article published by John Feffer and Emanuel Pastreich in Foreign Policy in Focus, entitled "East Asia:  A Farewell to Arms," makes a strong argument.  It is one that former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and his top advisors would have appreciated.  President Eisenhower's two terms in office were deeply conditioned by Korea.  In the 1952 presidential campaign, he won the presidency in no small part because, as a popular World War II general, he pledged to go to Korea and bring that stalemated and unpopular (in the U.S.) conflict to an end.   In 1961, Eisenhower's farewell speech from the oval office focused on the growing power of what he called the "military industrial complex."  I recommend reading of the article just published in Foreign Policy in Focus, and viewing of President Dwight Eisenhower's remarkably prescient farewell address to the nation. (The video below is from the National Archives)
How does this relate to ICT sector issues?  As Feffer and Pastreich argue, one of the more urgent problems facing Northeast Asia and indeed threatening its future, is climate change.  There is growing awareness all around the world that information and communication technologies will be an important part of the solution to climate change.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Digital migration in messaging apps?

There is a flurry of press coverage in Korea these days about a so-called "digital migration" from Kakao Talk to foreign messenger apps.  As reported by The Korea Times,"Although KakaoTalk is the most popular mobile messenger in the country, a number of Korean users have migrated to foreign mobile messenger services such as Telegram after the prosecution threatened to start real-time monitoring of social media to crack down on libelous rumors shortly after President Park Geun-hye denounced such accusations as baseless."
As reported in The Korea Joongang Daily,"On Sept. 18, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office established a new cyber investigation team, according to the office of New Politics Alliance for Democracy Rep. Chang Byoung-wan, who is also a member of the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee of the National Assembly. The purpose is to prevent cyber defamation and the spread of false information.The idea sparked controversy and it later transpired that the chat records of the deputy head of the left-wing Labor Party, Jeong Jin-u, had been tapped by the authorities using a warrant. That spooked people across Korea. Telegram, which was ranked around 100th on Apple’s App Store in terms of downloads in Korea until last month, was brought up to the top of the list Sept. 24."  The Representative's office released the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version) showing the increased downloads in Korea of the Germany-based app Telegram.
These developments in Korea mirror similar concern in other countries around the globe as the question of how to balance free flow of information with personal privacy comes to the fore.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Internet speed, fixed and mobile networks in developing nations

Earlier this week while introducing some bright, undergraduate students to the NetIndex explorer on Ookla's website (the subject of this earlier post) I had occasion to ask them the following question.  Why does the big difference between Korea or Japan and many African nations (e.g. Korea 54 Mbps, Tanzania 4.2 Mbps) in average internet download speed matter?  Put otherwise, why is the difference important?  The discussion that followed, along with several alerts that arrived in my e-mail this morning, prompted this post.
The McKinsey Group, using World Bank Data, recently published a blog post and a longer white paper entitled Offline and falling behind:  Barriers to Internet adoption.  The study suggests that there are four categories of consumer-facing barriers to Internet adoption, grouped as 1) incentives, 2)low incomes and affordability, 3)user capacity and 4)infrastructure.  On the important topic of network infrastructure, this is one of the first studies I've seen that explicitly acknowledges the important relationship between fixed and mobile networks.  As shown in an exhibit from the study (click to see a full-sized version of the graphic above) fixed broadband penetration is significantly higher in developed nations than in the developing ones.  Measured by household penetration, South Korea leads the world, and by a considerable margin over my home country, the U.S.A.
Another graph (click for larger version) from the study shows clearly that a majority of people in the world still do not have access to 3G or faster mobile networks that allow efficient access and use of many bandwidth-intensive internet services.  A full 70 percent of the mobile connections in the world's two most populous nations, China and India, are on 2G networks.  Of course, this situation will change as developing nations build faster mobile broadband infrastructures.  However, the problem is actually more complex than that.  Fast mobile broadband networks cannot be built with mobile technologies alone for technical and physical reasons.  The electromagnetic spectrum is a finite physical resource, which contains only a small fraction of the bandwidth provided by fiber optic cable.  Fixed fiber optic networks interconnect with mobile ones and complement them by providing back-haul service.  Indeed, Korea's experience would suggest that developing nations have little choice but to address the longer-term, more expensive project of extending fiber optic networks to the people, alongside their efforts to extend mobile networks.