Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Korea to end dependence on nuclear power?

Both the domestic and international media have taken note of President Moon Jae-In's pledge to wean Korea off its heavy dependence on nuclear power, and rightly so.  For example, the Korea Joongang Daily published an article entitled "Moon vows to wean Korea off nuclear power" accompanied by a photo of President Moon, flanked by children, preparing to press a button to permanently shut down the Kori-1 reactor, one of the nation's aging nuclear power plants.  (click on graphic to see a full size version)
As of 2017, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)this nation relied on nuclear power plants to supply fully one third of its electrical power. (click on the graphic to see a full size version)  Thanks to nuclear power, this nation enjoys relatively inexpensive and dependable electric power, whether one lives in its large cities or in rural areas.  This semester, I had the privilege to teach a class to a group of five executives from the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. and learned more from them about the current state of this nation's electric power grid.  Furthermore, having lived in South Korea continuously since 1996, I've enjoyed the dependable electric power supply that has helped fuel this nation's ICT-driven economic development.  It will indeed be a major challenge to "wean Korea off nuclear power."
In short, President Moon's declaration of his intent to shift Korea from dependence on nuclear power generation to renewable sources is a major policy change.  It is a bold move,  on the order of the Lee Myung Bak administration's dramatic shift from brown growth to a green growth strategy.  Along with many here in Korea and around the world, I can only wish President Moon and his administration well on achievement of this laudable goal.  It is an investment in future generations and the future of the planet.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

87 Mobile phones recovered from Sewol Ferry

The Chosun Ilbo English edition carried an article today entitled "Search for Ferry Victims Nearly Complete."  The last sentence of the article struck me as the most interesting and potentially most important for victims of the tragedy and their families.  It read, "Of 87 mobile phones retrieved from the wreck so far, 15 have been sent to a private company to retrieve text messages and other data that can shed light on the tragedy."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Collusion on phone service fees?

As reported today in The Korea Joongang Daily, some observers are claiming that there is collusion among the three main mobile service providers in the setting of service fees.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version), all three service providers have nearly identical service charges.  Consequently the civic group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), has raised suspicion of collusion. The civic group reported its suspicions to the Fair Trade Commission on May 18.
The Korea Joongang Daily article also quoted Lee Joon-gil, former FTC official and senior adviser at the law firm Jipyong as saying “It’s not a collusion when everyone unfolds their umbrella when it rains but when everyone is holding up a black umbrella, one could suspect collusion. When all of the three mobile carrier’s service plans are similar, it is unnatural as holding up a black umbrella.”

According to the article, the mobile companies say that in meeting consumers’ demand for cheaper smartphones, price competition is focused mostly on the device subsidy rather than on the service charges. “The phone, text messaging and data services are all similar among the three mobile carriers, and that’s why the services charges are similar,” said an industry official. “[People] don’t see soju, whose prices are similar [among different brands] as a collusion.”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

LTE network trials prioritize public safety traffic

As reported by TheStack.com "Nokia along with Finland’s State Security Networks Group, and Telia, have successfully trialed a priority system whereby public safety communications are triaged over other data traffic in LTE networks. The trials, according to a Nokia release, demonstrated the ability to prioritise traffic for first responders in busy 4G networks."  This is an important development, since no country will want to let a public safety-LTE network sit idle simply because there is no crisis or disaster occurring.  The report also noted that "Public safety is a priority for many networking and edge computing projects. Earlier this year, Ericsson and Intel announced the launch of the 5G Innovators Initiative (5GI2), with which initial development includes augmented and virtual reality applications for first responder drone surveillance."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ransomware and Korea's digital divide

Mainstream media and tech blogs are full of reports that the recent massive ransomware cyber attacks may be linked to North Korea.  This episode adds more evidence that Korea's division is both a military and a digital one.  One example of current reporting is The Guardian's report similarities were spotted between details of last week’s massive cyber-attack and code used by a prolific cybergang with links to North Korean government.   The graphic at left (click to see a full size version) shows employees at the Korea Internet and Security Agency (Kisa) in Seoul at work on May 15 monitoring  possible ransomware cyber-attacks.  The Hangul in yellow at the top of the large wall screen says  "공격 현황 "or "attack status" in English.
The Guardian story, notes that  "The WannaCry exploits used in the attack were drawn from a cache of exploits stolen from the NSA by the Shadow Brokers in August 2016. The NSA and other government agencies around the world create and collect vulnerabilities in popular pieces of software (such as Windows) and cyberweapons to use for intelligence gathering and cyberwarfare. Once these vulnerabilities were leaked by the Shadow Brokers, they became available for cybercriminals to adapt for financial gain by creating ransomware. This ransomware spread rapidly on Friday by exploiting a vulnerability contained in the NSA leak, targeting computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system, taking over users’ files and demanding $300 to restore them."
In response, the president of Microsoft stated that governments should view this massive cyber attack as a wake-up call.  Brad Smith added that “Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”
I would only add that this latest cyber attack episode underscores that the division on the Korean peninsula is both a military one, symbolized by the 38th parallel DMZ and a deep digital divide.  Quite clearly, North Korea seeks to advance both its missile and nuclear weapons programs and its capacity to wage cyber warfare.