Friday, April 29, 2011

Proliferation of Smartphones and Tablets in Korea

Two items in the news today provide a sure indication of continued media convergence and the maturation of the market for smartphones and mobile devices.  The first item notes the change in distribution and sales of smart phones.  In the past, manufacturers of mobile devices sold them only through a single mobile operator.  Apple changed that pattern by making the iPhone available through both KT and SKT, and the other major handset and tablet manufacturers have followed suite, as reported by the Chosun Ilbo.  Another article, in the Joongang Daily, reports that this week will see the introduction of a "deluge of new smartphone and tablet PC models." (click on the illustration to see a larger version)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Are Smart Phones Tracking Users in Korea?

The Joongang Daily this morning carried an article with the accompanying data (click on the graphic to view a full sized version) on the growth of location-based data and location-based service businesses in Korea.  Not surprisingly, the chart shows a rather dramatic increase in the business between 2009 and 2010.  This is exactly what we would expect, given that Apple's iPhone was delayed in coming to the South Korean market and did not arrive here until November of 2009.  While location-data businesses, which include Apple and Google, collect location data, location-based services businesses use that data for various services such as logistics, transportation, or emergency services. LBS is considered a rising business, and not just in Korea. Research firm Gartner said the market for location-based services - currently worth $2.9 billion - will to rise to $8.3 billion in 2014.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How Widespread is Mobile Phone Use in North Korea?

The English online version of The Chosun Ilbo this morning has a short, but fascinating article, entitled "How Widespread is Mobile Phone Use in North Korea?"  As readers of this blog will know, I've been following not only the extent of mobile phone usage in North Korea, but also its implications, in posts over the past several years.  According to The Chosun Ilbo article, the mobile phone penetration rate in North Korea is only about 1.3 percent, far lower than South Korea's 103.9 percent, but the average usage time amounts to 300 minutes, more or less the level of South Korea's. Hwang Sung-jin of the Korea Information Society Development Institute, said this is because of brisk usage among high-ranking North Korean officials.  The article also quotes Suk Ho-ick of KT, the chairman of the IT Unification Forum, on North Korea's efforts to control the use of mobile phones.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Introduction of LTE in Korea

As reported in the Joongang Daily, Korea's mobile service providers all have plans in place to begin offering LTE (long term evolution) service this year or next.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click for full-size version) SK Telecom and LG U+ will introduce the service in July of this year, while KT, which is highly invested in a nationwide WiBro network, will follow in the first quarter of 2012.  Both LTE and Korea's own technology, Wibro (mobile WiMax) are fourth generation mobile technologies that deliver more speed than third generation mobile networks.   Speed translates into a much more satisfactory customer experience when using video or data-intensive mobile services.

Monday, April 18, 2011

LG Steps up Research Recruitment: Study abroad and Korea's R&D

In our new book on Digital Development in Korea (Routledge, March 2011), Dr. Oh and I devote an entire chapter to the role of education in this nation's remarkable rise from the ashes of the Korean war.  One portion of that chapter deals with the role of study abroad   Today the Joongang Daily carried an article that further underscores some of the points made in our chapter.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version) the LG Group is stepping up its research recruitment in the United States, and specifically in Silicon Valley.  It sponsored a four-day event called Techno Conference in San Jose, attended by 20 technology executives at LG Electronics, in an effort to promote the company among engineers.  Around 150 Korean students and engineers participated, including those pursuing masters and doctoral degrees at prestigious U.S. universities (such as nearby Stanford U.), along with those working at major IT companies.  About 100 signed up for on-site interviews.
Techno Conference is only the latest in a series of efforts LG has been pursuing to strengthen its R&D capabilities. Late last month, LG Electronics announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with 13 major universities in Korea, including Seoul National University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) and Pohang University of Science and Technology.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Local Search Engines File Complaint Against Google

The Korea Times carried an article with additional detail on the complaint filed against Google by local Korean search engines.  I recommend it for those of you interested in more in-depth analysis of this issue.

Content, Search and Advertising: Developments in the South Korean Market

As readers of this blog know, I believe that search, or easy and broad access to information is the so-called "killer app" that people want when they log on to their computers or mobile devices.   This is hardly surprising as human beings are essentially communicative animals, whatever their culture or language.  For years now Naver, although it only searches within the Korean-language "intranet" and ignores the wider, diverse world of the English and other-language internet, has been dominant in South Korean search.  This made Korea one of only four countries in the world that bucked the Google trend, the others being Russia, China and the Czech Republic.
This week, two news items relating to the role of language and culture in search caught my attention.   The first was the news, as reported in the Chosun Ilbo, that Daum and Nate have formed a partnership to take on Naver.  Naver's strength in search is a main reason it is currently the dominant web portal and online advertising service in South Korea.  The new partnership calls for cooperation in online advertising and content. SK Communications boasts some 33 million users on its Nate messenger service and operates the popular social networking service Cyworld, while Daum features e-mail services, forums and news. The two sides are hoping to create synergy through the cooperation.  The partnership will be the first sharing of content by major portals in Korea.
The second news item was the announcement, reported in the Joongang Daily, that Naver and Daum have asked the Fair Trade Commission to investigate Google for allegedly stifling competition in the availability of search engines available on smart phones. NHN and Daum argue that Google, the developer of the Android operating system, pressed local smartphone makers to preload only its mobile search programs in an effort to increase its market share in Korea, which has long been dominated by local search engines that had 90 percent of the local market last year.  
Things are getting interesting in the Korean market.   Obviously content, search and advertising are all closely inter-related in the emerging world of broadband internet as we move toward a ubiquitous network society.  However, local press coverage here fails to frame the issue in terms of Korea's heavy dependence upon Korean-language only content, a dependence that has started to break down, especially among younger generations, since the arrival of Apple's iPhone way back in December of 2009.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Latest on "Smartphone Shock" in South Korea

As readers of this blog already know, I've been fascinated by the shock created when the Apple iPhone finally reached the South Korean market, after more than two years of delay. (for example, see this earlier post)  Now a Google study has released some fascinating data about the rapid spread of mobile broadband usage here in South Korea.  As reported in The Wall Street Journal  smart phone usage has grown so much that Google is now tracking more than 100 million "ad requests" a day in South Korea.
In the study, Google found that nearly 60% of people using mobile devices accessed the internet on their handset at least five times a day. And 35% said they spend more time online via a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet PC than they do watching TV. That seems startlingly high, but TV watching is reduced for many South Koreans by long working hours, after-work outings and lengthy commutes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Digital Development in Korea Now Available in E-book Formats

Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society, is now available via in a format for Kindle and other e-readers.  It looks quite nice on the 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab device I've been using.  And, of course, the electronic version has the advantages of being hyperlinked and searchable.  

Mobile Phone Use in North Korea Increasing and Diversifying

Media reports, including one in The Joongang Daily, indicate that mobile phone usage in North Korea is up 50 percent, year on year.   The development and use of mobile telephony is a topic that I've followed somewhat closely in this blog (see earlier posts).  There are many interesting aspects to the development.  Use of Chinese mobile services along North Korea's border with China highlights the dilemma that the North faces in trying to keep information from its people.  Continued restrictions on the use of mobile phones and other digital devices has the effect of restricting economic growth and development, while expansion of services multiplies the ways North Korean citizens can receive and share information about the outside world.  Gigaom has an interesting article, based on some recent research, about how Twitter could help unleash world peace.
According to figures released by South Korean officials, the number of mobile phone users in North Korea has increased to 450,000 and South Korea's Vice Unification Minister believes, probably correctly, that this indicates not only growth in numbers but also a diversification of users, after the early usage was largely limited to elites.  This diversification, in turn, could signal the growth of a tech-savvy generation in North Korea.  If that happens, one can only speculate about the future role of digital media in political change within North Korea.  The matter becomes especially interesting with the current rapid decrease in cost, accompanied by increase in computing and communication power of a growing array of smart phones!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Shape of Education for the 21st Century

So far, I'm truly enjoying my new job with the Lyntz Knowledge Group in Seoul.  Working with a larger network of Korean and American colleagues, I'm helping to shape a new business approach to international education.   Our new business model is responsive to two major developments that are transforming education in the early years of this century.
The first of these developments is the information revolution, which features continued convergence of digital media, the rapid global spread of mobile broadband, greater use of video and, of course, social networking.  The IT revolution is changing the character and quality of education, both on-campus and off, while literally breaking down the walls of the traditional campus.
The second major development is the globalization or internationalization of education.  It is characterized by a major increase worldwide in the number of students studying abroad along with major changes in the pattern of student flows among the countries of the world.  East Asia, which has traditionally been a major source for students who study in North America and Europe, is slowly but surely becoming an important destination for study abroad.
Korea fits into this picture in a very interesting way.   South Korea possesses the world's most advanced digital networks, and a tertiary education system that is beginning to draw students from all over Asia and the rest of the world, especially from developing nations.  Its leading colleges and universities all have large numbers of U.S. educated Ph.D.s and many of those schools are aggressively expanding their English language curricula.
The potential for Korea, and for the Northeast Asia region, as an education and research hub, has yet to be realized.  However, it may come sooner than many predict.   NYU has just announced plans to establish a degree-granting campus in Shanghai.  South Korea has ambitious plans for the Global Campus in New Songdo, currently its major effort to attract international schools.
The information revolution, global mobility, and changing patterns of university-industry cooperation and innovation are some of the major factors that will transform education in this century.   This morning I read with interest that Stanford University is one of a larger group of schools that have expressed interest in establishing a campus in New York City! Read the article here.  There was a joke circulating among Stanford graduates about a certain Ivy League school being the "Stanford of the East Coast."  Now there may actually be such a school!  Why not a Stanford of Northeast Asia, situated here on the Korean peninsula between its larger neighbors and ideally positioned for East Asian studies, broadly conceived?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unbridled Private Tutoring Costs in Seoul

An article in The Korea Times sheds light on some of the current practices taking place in the world of private tutoring in the wealthy Gangnam district of Seoul.  Beginning last August, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education conducted an investigation of underground private tutoring.  Of the illegal cases it uncovered, it chose to publicize one in which a chief tutor hired fifteen others, some of whom were regaled as "star tutors" and charged parents as much as 10 million won ($8,000) per month for private lessons.  Classes were held in apartments or studio apartments that were converted for the purpose.  Students paid 1.7 million won per month for math tutoring while the cost for English, Korean, science and social science classes was about 1 million won per month.  Classes were held eight times a month at 90 minutes per class.
In legal terms, the problem was not the amount of money involved, but rather that this group operated an actual hagwon without reporting it to the education office.  (Click on the illustration to see a full size version)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Educational Exchange with Korea: The Pyongyang Project

I've been aware for some time now that the United States has limited educational and cultural exchange with North Korea.  Last year I had the opportunity to discuss this at length with one of the participants in Syracuse University's exchange program with Kimchaek University in Pyongyang, a long-running program.
My thanks to Brian in Jeollanam-Do for calling my attention to a new study abroad program involving North Korea.  The Pyongyang Project is a non profit academic endeavor that started in 2009 as some young academics and their advisors forged a long term relationship with the Korean International Youth and Children's Travel Company (KIYCTC) in P'yongyang, and worked with North Korea's Ministry of Education, Kim Il Sung University and the DPRK Foreign Ministry.
This is an encouraging project and will be an interesting one, indeed, to follow.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

LinkedIn versus Facebook in Korea

As elsewhere around the world, social networking in South Korea is in a rapid state of flux, in no small measure because of the proliferation of smart phones and the social capabilities that mobile devices make possible.  As noted in earlier posts, social networking via Cyworld arrived half a decade before Facebook appeared in the U.S.  However, with the arrival of Apple's iPhone near the end of 2009 and the rapid proliferation of Android devices, both Facebook and Twitter began to gain significant market share here.
Gigaom has an interesting article entitled "LinkedIn and Facebook:  Personal Versus Professional in the Identity Wars."    Like many users of internet services, I've found myself much more comfortable with LinkedIn than with Facebook, precisely because the former deals with professional identity rather than close family or personal ties. I suspect that Korean users of both services have noted this difference as well, especially since the boundaries between personal and professional, culturally speaking, are different in Korea than in the West.  This much can be seen from the rather dramatic differences between Cyworld and Facebook.  When it comes to social networking, it seems apparent that one size doesn't fit all.