Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Korea's changing patterns of social media use

As reported by the Korea Joongang Daily, Koreans have decreased their use of Facebook over the past several years, while increasing use of Instagram. (click on the graphic for a full size version)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

North Korea is not Crazy: The U.S.-North Korea Singapore Summit

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has just published two very different videos that provide essential context for understanding the recent summit meeting of President Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un.  The first is an interview with University of Chicago history professor Bruce Cumings.   Like me, he first encountered Korea as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.

North Korea is not crazy from on Vimeo.

The second video was produced for the White House and shown at the summit meeting in Singapore.

"Destiny Pictures" — Singapore Summit video from on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Bit growth": Why Samsung and SK Hynix will invest $42 billion in semiconductors

As reported by The Korea Times, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will invest approximately $42 billion USD to enhance their semiconductor manufacturing facilities, mostly in Korea.  Semiconductors are perhaps THE core technology of the digital network era, and were targeted in the 1981 Long Term Plan to Foster the Electronics Sector in the form of the 4MB DRAM project.  Once Korea competitively entered the global semiconductor market, it never looked back.  Today, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are dominant players in the global market for both DRAM and NAND memory chips, as shown in this 2016 report by McKinsey.  As noted in that report, "Memory bit capacity is determined by two factors: capacity for memory wafers worldwide and the number of bits per wafer."   The industry has adopted the term "bit growth" to describe this phenomenon. 
For me personally, this brings back memories of a graduate seminar taught by Professor Edwin B. Parker at Stanford University in the late 1970s, where he explained Moore's Law in simple terms.   As Ed told us, the cost of storing one bit of information keeps decreasing as the capacity of semiconductors increases.   Today I understand more fully that "bit growth" means exponential increases in the human ability to store, compute and communicate digital information.  This phenomenon is at the heart of the digital revolution and is well understood by Korea's industry, government and academic leaders.  There is risk involved because semiconductors are now a commodity and subject to huge cyclical swings.  However, it appears that Korean leaders may once again be making a prudent investment in the digital future.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fake news, search, and Korea's problem with portals

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Readers of this blog will know that I've posted frequently over the years about the continued dominance of Naver in Korea while Google became the dominant Internet search engine in all but a small handful of countries. (see these posts, for example)  To understand this dominance, one must first understand that, strictly speaking, Naver is a web portal and not a search engine.  This overwhelming preference among Koreans for Naver is also understandable because its content is almost entirely in the Korean language and is presented in a manner that fits well with Korean cultural preferences.   However, the almost-exclusive use of Naver by some also illustrates the Korean proverb "frog in a well."
The Korea Joongang Daily has published an informative article entitled "Debriefing:  Korea's problem with portals."   I recommend it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

To read James F. Larson's books and monographs

I've just revised my personal website ( to include links that allow full-text PDF downloads of nearly all my books and monographs. One exception is Digital Development in Korea, my 2011 book with Dr. Myung Oh, which is still under copyright with Routledge.