Friday, September 26, 2008

The Mother of All Search Functions

David Pogue of the New York Times made a point in his e-column today  that reinforces what I've said in earlier posts about search, specifically Google versus Naver .  He begins the column as follows.
"Today's e-column is nothing but a computer tip, but it's a biggie.  It seems obvious in retrospect, but I've got to tell you, it's totally rocked my world:  Use Google search for everything.  Let me explain."
Pogue then goes on to explain why it wastes time and effort to use the search boxes embedded in almost all web sites, when Google has already indexed everything on the web and you can get to where you're going faster by searching directly with Google.  He gives several examples of how it "used to be," before he discovered how Google works.  For example, "Used to be, when I wanted to consult Wikipedia, I'd go to, I'd click English; I'd click in the Search box; I'd type 'blu-ray', and click Search. Five steps. . . . . I've been totally wasting my time.  Google blows all of this out of the water."  I agree, and here in Korea the degree to which people begin to use Google, rather than relying only on Naver ,  will be an important indicator of the globalization process.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Google's Android Phone: What Will Samsung and LG Do Now?

With the release of the world's first Android phone yesterday by T-Mobile in the United States, following on the success of the iPhone in most of the world, Samsung, LG and other major players in the South Korean market should be prepared to act boldly.  Failure to do so could damage the efforts of these companies and others here to maintain a healthy share of the international market for mobile phones and other portable devices.
The iPhone and the Android make it very clear that convergence has already brought the internet experience to mobile phones, and consumers all over the world will be clamoring for these devices.  There will also be pressure for the leading mobile operators to provide high speed internet access at reasonable rates.  Here in South Korea, we still have the unusual situation that neither the iPhone nor the Google Android are available yet.   Clearly, many consumers would like to purchase one, or both of these phones, given the high levels of internet use here.   As a consolation prize, many are hoping, with me, that LG and Samsung will soon launch their own Android phones here.  Both companies are members of the Open Handset Alliance .

Friday, September 19, 2008

KT Launches IPTV Test Service

One of the most interesting aspects of the broadband digital convergence taking place in South Korea these days is the introduction of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service.   On Thursday, as reported in the Digital Chosunilbo, Korea Telecom started a test service of the IPTV, including realtime broadcasting of KBS1 and EBS.  Although the test is beginning with service for only 200 members, KT aims to secure at least 300,000 members by the end of this year, 1.1 million by next year and 3 million by 2011. 

FTSE to Promote Korea to 'Developed Market'

It's official.  As reported in the Chosun Ilbo online English edition, the Korean stock market is to be promoted to "developed" from "advanced emerging" status by the Financial Times Stock Exchange index.  The FTSE is used by many European investors, and the promotion would help the country draw more foreign investment and raise stock and bond prices, which have been notoriously undervalued. Korea thus joins 24 "developed" markets.  My reaction in part:  better late than never.  Another part of my reaction:  national image, or the brand image and brand value of a nation are extremely important in this information era.  This cannot help but enhance South Korea's national image.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

95 Percent of Korean Households Have Broadband Internet

The Korea Communications Commission has announced that, as of the end of July, fully ninety-five percent of the households in South Korea subscribed to broadband internet. This amounted to 15.09 million households, an increase of 620,000 from the previous year. The breakdown of broadband market share among service providers was as follows:

  • Korea Telecom        44.7%
  • Hanaro Telecom       22.4%
  • LG Powercom          13.2%
  • Cable TV Operators 19.7%
Although the household internet penetration is nearly at saturation levels, an official at the Commission said that the number is likely to increase when Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services are launched in the country next year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

South Korea's Seven Economic Zones

In its efforts to become more internationally competitive, South Korea's government plans to group areas of the nation into seven major economic zones or blocs as indicated in the accompanying graphic (click on the graphic to see a full-sized image).  According to the Korea Times, each bloc will be assigned with one or two leading industries as part of government efforts to promote balanced development and turn the nation into a globally competitive business hub. As part of the overall plan, the government plans to spend 25 trillion won out of state coffers and attract another 25 trillion won from the private sector over the next five years, implementing 30 development projects aimed at expanding roads, railways and other infrastructure, as well as nurturing talented manpower.  The Korea times further notes that "Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province will be transformed into a global business hub, equipped with knowledge-based service industries.  Chungcheong Province will be fostered as Korea's Silicon Valley and a research and development hub for Northeast Asia. Two other observations come to mind with regard to the regional distribution of leading industries in South Korea.  One is that information and communication technologies (ICT) are a key underlying element for all of these industries.  The fundamental building blocks of the information age will be necessary for success in each and every industry.  Second, it is notable that Gangwon Province is split, with the northern part of the province being in North Korea and the DMZ.  The graphic used here shows only the southern part of the province, which is in South Korea.  In fact, the governor of Gangwon Province recently announced a plan to develop a "Peace Zone" in the present demilitarized zone portion of the province.  As reported in the Korea Times, the governor said that "In the peace zone will be a tourism area connecting the North's Mt. Geumgang and the South's Mt. Seorak, an industrial complex like Gaeseong, and a 'peace city' on the border which will be a gateway between the two Koreas."  Governor Kim also said the province has already proposed some of the joint projects to North Korea, where they were welcomed.  "But such projects will be possible only after the governments of the two Koreas agree to them."

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Website on Korean Cyberspace

For those of you who are interested, I've just started another website and would like to invite you to  The purpose of this new site will be to place web resources about Korea's information society in a single place.  Unlike a blog, there will not be frequent new entries. However, this should prove to be an increasingly valuable resource over time.  Please let me know if you have suggestions about it.

Korea's Growing Game Industry

I wrote a short post back in February about South Korea's Game Science High School, and thereby at least made a nod in the direction of the game industry within this country's information economy.  However, since that time, I have learned a great deal and today's news compels this posting.  According to statistics recently released by the Korea Game Industry Agency, Korea accounted for just over a third of global online game sales last year.The revenues posted by Korean online game companies totaled $2.41 billion in 2007, or 34.5 percent of the worldwide online game market.  The figure included $781 million worth of online games exported by the Korean companies.  According to  Business Week Online's "Eye on Asia,"  a report released this week by Pearl Research, a San Francisco-based consulting firm specializing in the Internet and technology markets, shows top Korean game portals such as CJ Internet's Netmarble, NHN's Hangame, and Neowiz's Pmang can attract 500,000 to 1 million unique visitors a day. More than 10 million Korean adults visit game portals every month, according to its estimates.  That's more than a fifth of the whole population.
Two English websites that provide useful background on the game industry in South Korea and its place in the world are the Korea Game Industry Agency site and the Game Industry Total Information Service System site.  I will obviously have much more to say about this important and rapidly-growing industry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Internet Changes Rituals for Chuseok

The universal availability of the internet in South Korea is beginning to change how some families approach the rituals assoicated with Chuseok, Korea's harvest moon festival.  According to an article in the Korea Times, the Chuseok holidays extend three days this year from Sept. 13 to 15. But weeks prior to the holidays, families have already started their trip to their ancestors' tombs to hold a ritual, in order to avoid traffic jams during the holidays. Last weekend, most highways were jammed with those trying to pay an early visit to their ancestors. But even ``smarter'' holidaymakers opt out of congestions by using ``beolcho,'' or grave weeding services.  It is easy to find such services on the internet.  Likewise, there are internet-based services to prepare all of the food required for family gatherings at Chuseok, a chore that used to cause housewives to suffer from "holiday sickness," even before the holiday.

North Korea Trains Hackers

Although the digital divide between South Korea and North Korea is probably the deepest such chasm in the world, the North Korean military has trained hundreds of hackers, some of whom have used their skills in an effort to undermine the South Korean military.  According to an article in today's Chosun Ilbo English edition, a North Korean spyware e-mail was reportedly transmitted to the computer of a colonel at a field army command via China in early August. The e-mail contained a typical program designed automatically to steal stored files if the recipient opens it. It has not been confirmed whether military secrets were leaked as a result of the hacking attempt, but their scale could be devastating given that the recipient is in charge of the South Korean military's central nervous system -- Command, Control, Communication, Computer & Information (C4I). South Korea's Defense Ministry believes that the skills of 500 to 600 North Korean hackers are on a par with those of CIA experts. In 1999, the department said it traced frequent cyber visitors and found that North Korea topped the list.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Korea Ranks High in New United Nations E-Government Survey

Korea ranks high on most measures reported in the "United Nations e-Government Survey 2008:  From e-Government to Connected Governance."  This is the latest in a series of United Nations studies that in some ways are more comprehensive than the Brookings Institution study mentioned in my earlier post.  For example, South Korea ranks sixth in the world on the important overall measure of e-government readiness, as shown by the accompanying graphic. (click on the graphic to see a full size version)  Within the Asian region, Korea was the leader on most of the measures reported by this study.   Worldwide, on the measure of e-participation, it ranked number two, behind the United States.  The e-participation index aims to capture the dimensions of government to citizen interaction and inclusion, by assessing the extent to which governments proactively solicit citizen input.

Brookings Institution Report Ranks Korea's e-Government Number One

Another in a series of reports on e-government by the Brookings Institution has ranked South Korea number one.  The report notes that "unlike traditional bricks and mortar agencies, digital delivery systems are non-hierarchical, non-linear, interactive and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The non-hierarchical character of Internet delivery permits people to look for information at their own convenience. The interactive aspects of e-government allow both citizens and bureaucrats to send as well as receive information."  To evaluate the state of digital government, the study examined 18 different features. Four
points were awarded to each website for the presence of the following features: publications, databases, audio clips, video clips, foreign language access, not having ads, not having premium fees, not having user fees, disability access, having privacy policies, security policies, allowing digital signatures on transactions, an option to pay via credit cards, email contact information, areas to post comments, option for email updates, option for website personalization and PDA accessibility. These features provide a maximum of 72 points for particular websites. Each site then qualifies for up to 28 points based on the number of online services executable on that site (one point for one service, two points for two services, three points for three services and on up to 28 points for 28 or more services). The overall e-government index runs along a scale from zero (having none of these features and no online services) to 100 (having all features plus at least 28 online services). Totals for each website within a country were averaged across all of that nation's websites to produce a zero to 100 overall rating for that nation.

Monday, September 1, 2008

ITU Telecommunication Channel Available on YouTube

One important aspect of the telecommunications revolution that took place in South Korea during the 1980s was that it led directly into a more active international role for the country.  The highly successful 1988 Seoul Olympics gave a big boost to the country's so-called "Northern Policy" of opening up relations with China, the former Soviet Union and socialist bloc countries in Eastern Europe. (see my book with Heung Soo Park, Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics). At the same time, South Korea's economic growth put in in a position to more actively participate in ITU (International Telecommunications Union) projects, as well as those of the OECD, which it joined in 1996.  It became an active participant in the World Summit on the Information Society and in global efforts to help eliminate the digital divide.
In the above context, I was pleased to find that there is an ITU Telecommunication Channel on YouTube. You may enjoy, as I did, getting to know this channel by viewing the following video.

I can see from a number of Korean-language annotated entries that people here have taken an interest in this channel.  Through this blog and related sites, I hope to organize links to the major YouTube channels relating to telecommunications, and in particular the Korean experience. A word of warning. Don't expect a tremendous amount of quality and substance in these telecoms-related videos. That is one reason I want to review them, to sift the wheat from the chaff as it were.