Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Government structure for ICT and S&T Policy, 2003-present, 미래창조과학부

A Korean language report released by the new Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) provides some interesting new information on how the structure of government is different than the prior two administrations.  It clearly shows that the digital information revolution was central to the new President's thinking in reorganizing government.  The report is titled "Science, technology and ICT leading to a realization of the creative economy and citizens welfare," (my translation) and is dated April 18, 2013.  It provides some interesting detail on the scope and mandate of the new ministry, including the chart reproduced here (click to see a full-sized version), with English superimposed over the Korean text on the original.  The chart shows the transition in the structure of key government ministries and offices related to Science and Technology and ICT from the "participatory government" of President Roh Moo Hyun to the Lee Myung-bak government to the present Park Geun-hye government.   The chart provides an interesting view of how the Park Geun-hye administration not only put ICT industry and policy responsibilities back into a single ministry, but also merged it with science and technology, recognizing the broad manner in which the digital information revolution is transforming the economy and prospects for new jobs.  More on this topic in future posts.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Buddhist outreach with smart phone apps

The Korea Herald carried an interesting article this morning on how Buddhist leaders in Korea are using information technology to reach out to the masses.  The article started by noting that "...the preconceived stereotypes of Buddhist monks living in ascetic, rustic conditions nevertheless do not blend well with smartphones. Yet monks are chatting and texting, and spreading Buddhist teachings, on cell phones everywhere from Dongguk University in the heart of Seoul to the sandy courtyards of mountain hermitages." TheJogye Order,the largest Buddhist order in Korea, has been developing cutting-edge smartphone apps to spread the message of Buddhism. "Starting with the “Hello Dharma School” application in 2010, the Jogye Order’s Office of Missionary Affairs has developed eight apps and is working on several more."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Will Korea's "network powerhouse" phase continue in the future?

Today I ran across a Korean language paper written by researchers at, Digieco, KT's economic and management research institute.  They addressed some of the same topics as the conference paper I wrote with a Korean colleague and delivered  annual conference of the Pacific Telecommunications Council in January.  The title of the Digieco research paper translates roughly into English as "Will Korea's network powerhouse phase continue....the basis for future competitiveness."
The paper begins by noting that the value of networks is changing.  Over the past decade, countries around the world have come to recognize networks not simply as a means for transmission of communications, but as infrastructure that is a necessary pre-requisite for economic growth, innovation and job creation. (paper can be downloaded at this link)
Up to this point, the paper notes, South Korea has become a digital network powerhouse through fierce competition among operators.   The nation's status as the first country in the world to build out nationwide LTE mobile networks is but the latest evidence of this phase in South Korean development.
A couple of other arguments made in the paper were interesting.   For one thing, although it did not invoke the "information superhighway" metaphor, it explicitly drew the comparison between the impact of transportation infrastructure and digital communication networks, presenting the bar chart published here (click to see a full size version of the graphic).  The top bar in the graph represents the duration (15 hours) to drive from Seoul to Busan on.  The second bar represents the time required if driving on the Gyeongbu expressway, and the final two bars show the time required to travel from Seoul to Busan on the original KTX, introduced in 2004 and the newer version of KTX, introduced in 2010.
A second argument in the paper that I found interesting was its conclusion.   It notes that Korea, which began as a network powerhouse, has in recent years neglected this while countries around the globe paid more attention to it.  Therefore, the paper argues, there is a need to pay attention to reducing the gap between Korea and other countries through a range of government investment support.  It suggests the need for government leadership as the nation nears the end of its "network powerhouse" phase.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Korea's continuing lead in speed

I received a message this past week calling my attention to the infographic at the left  (click on the infographic to see a full size version, or go directly to it at this link)  Note that the comparisons of South Korea with the U.S. are on the top quarter or so of the graphic, followed by U.S.-specific information.
This information prompted me to check Akamai's latest State of the Internet quarterly report, for the third quarter of 2012.   It shows that Korea continues to lead the world in its average measured connection speed to the internet, at 14.7 Mbps, followed by Japan and Hong Kong at 10.5 and 9.0 Mbps respectively.  South Korea is also the world leader in what Akamai calls "High Broadband"  with 52% of all connections at a speed greater than 10 Mbps, compared with only 18% of such connections in the United States.
When it comes to internet connections, whether fixed or mobile, speed matters.  However, high speed broadband networks do not simply appear overnight.  Indeed, the building of these new networks is a large, long-term construction project that requires massive funding, planning and leadership.  The larger lesson from this infographic, along with considerable recent research and discussion in policy circles, is that the liberal, U.S. approach to broadband, "let the market and private sector handle it" doesn't seem to work well, when compared with the government-led, long-term ICT policy planning in South Korea.
I've been working over the past several weeks on revision of a conference paper with a Korean colleague that examines the role of government leadership in the ICT sector, so this infographic was a timely reminder that policies and plans, or the lack thereof, ultimately affect the marketplace and consumers.   It also reminded me to appreciate the gigabit network at KAIST and the high download speeds we enjoy here in the Daedok Innopolis.   While Kansas City, Austin Texas and Provo Utah will soon get similar speeds courtesy of Google, over here in South Korea the entire nation will very soon be enjoying a gigabit network.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Google chairman's recent North Korea visit and the "dark side of the digital revolution"

The Wall Street Journal has published an interesting article by Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, entitled "The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution."   It is based largely on their recent visit to North Korea, and provides an interesting current perspective on the dilemma that the internet and all new digital technologies and networks pose for the North Korean government.  For example, they note that "Even the idea of the Internet has not yet permeated the public's consciousness in North Korea. When foreigners visit, the government stages Internet browsing sessions by having "students" look at pre-downloaded and preapproved content, spending hours (as they did when we were there) scrolling up and down their screens in totalitarian unison." What makes this situation so poignant is that, just south of the DMZ is a society which is arguably more aware of the internet than any other country on earth.  I recommend reading the entire article.

Science and ICT Ministry to focus on technology, job creation

Now that its Minister is formally appointed, news about specific activities planned by the new Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning is being published.  As noted by Yonhap News, the "super ministry"  plans to focus a great deal of money and effort in the coming several years on technology upgrades and job creation.  Also, The Korea ITTimes is reporting that the ministry plans to spend KRW 31.5 billion nurturing IT talent.  It reported that "The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) will plough KRW 31.47 billion into fostering IT and IT convergence experts. The MSIP said Sunday it will provide KRW 22.17 billion to universities’ IT research centers and KRW 9.3 billion to projects aimed to nurture highly-skilled workers in the IT convergence sector.The MSIP’s two projects, “Support for University IT Research Centers” and “Project to Nurture Highly-skilled IT Convergence Experts,” will benefit about 2,200 college students and nearly 180 companies’ IT and IT convergence researches respectively. As for Support for University IT Research Centers, each beneficiary (university) will receive KRW 600 million to KRW 800 million annually over the next four years to make sure universities produce excellent IT workers in a sustainable manner and effectively carry out industry-academia joint R&D projects. This year, a total of 30 universities will be covered by Support for University IT Research Centers."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Official name: "Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning" (미래창조과학부)

Finally, the government has announced the official English name for the new super ministry that has been the subject of numerous earlier posts.  As reported by Yonhap News Agency and other media, it is the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.
The new ministry has also published a Korean language web site (view it at this link), with some pages still under construction.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

More on the nature of Korea's cyber-war

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are at a high level, thanks in no small part to the manner in which news is disseminated in the new, digitally networked environment in which we live.   Yesterday I watched most of a "Situation Room" special on the Korean situation on CNN.  The segments were informative, featuring interviews with various experts and a lot of current or recent video taken within North Korea.  Inevitably one of the topics was the "cyber-war" that is taking place alongside the "real world" by the U.S., South Korean and North Korean military, among other actors.  Although like many people, I get much of my news over the internet, I still watch television news (CNN, the BBC, Korean news channels, etc.) and value its immediate and visual character. The "Situation Room" special actually showed segments of the video that the hacking group, Anonymous, posted to YouTube.  A screen capture of that video was published yesterday by The Joongang Daily (click on the graphic at left to see a full size version)
The Joongang Daily also published some interesting detail about the information made public by Anonymous after it hacked the North Korean site "Uriminzokkiri."  As I noted in a short post yesterday, that information included records of the web sites 9,001 members, about 5,000 of whose e-mail addresses appeared to be in South Korea.  The article included the breakdown of those addresses as shown in the graphic below (click to see a larger version) .
The Joongang Daily Article also noted that the police, prosecutors and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) were checking whether the South Korean members had violated the nation's national security law. "If a South Korean exchanged messages with Pyongyang after becoming a member of the Web site, it would be a violation of the NSL’s Article No. 8, which prohibits people from communicating with people in the North and which can be punished with up to 10 years in prison. Posting words or images that praise North Korea is a violation of Article No. 7 and can be punished with a jail term of up to seven years, according to the NIS."   The national security law is the main reason why South Korea ranks high on internet filtering as measured by the Open Net Initiative, but only in the political category, as noted in an earlier post.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Anonymous hacks North Korean "Uriminzokkiri" web site

The cyber conflict involving the two Koreas took a new twist recently when the international hacking group Anonymous hacked an official North Korean web site,"Uriminzokkiri" . As noted by the Korea Joongang Daily, "Anonymous, a so-called “hacktivist” group, said it hacked into the pro-North Web site uriminzokkiri.com in order to tell Pyongyang to stop threatening the world and to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to step down and give his people freedom. It leaked records of the Web site’s 9,001 members on Thursday including names, user IDs, dates of birth, e-mail addresses and genders. About 5,000 of the e-mail addresses were from South Korea."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The importance of a name for the new Future Ministry (미래창조과학부)

Not surprisingly, the question of the name for the new Future Ministry (미래창조과학부) continues to be debated in the local press, for reasons I've touched on in several earlier posts.  Today The Korea Times carried an article on the topic.   Some papers have been calling it the Ministry of Future Planning and Science, even though the word "planning" is not part of the Korean name.  Presumably this is because candidate Ahn Cheol-soo proposed a Ministry of Future Planning, while campaigning for the presidency last Fall.   For background on that, see this Hankyoreh article.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why the new super ministry nominee with drew (미래창조가학부)

The English papers in Seoul are all covering the Washington Post opinion piece in which the Park Geun-hye administration's initial nominee to head the new Future Ministry (미래창조과학부) explained his reasons for withdrawing from the nomination process.  That editorial said in part "Change-resistant forces in the political and bureaucratic circles and certain business spheres naturally raised objections to my candidacy, mostly on the basis of my nationality and presumed lack of allegiance. A vitriolic response I can only liken to a witch hunt took off on the Internet and even in some mainstream media outlets. I was slandered. Some, for example, theorized that I was a spy. Family was considered fair game: My wife was accused of being associated with a brothel."  Near the end of the article, he says "In the 21st century, the most successful countries and economies will be those that can move beyond the old prejudices concerning nationality." In response to the Washington Post piece, The Joongang Ilbo published an article headlined "Park's former nominee decries excess nationalism," while The Korea Herald's article bore the headline "Failed minister nominee makes bitter attack on Korea's old prejudices."  The reactions are as one would expect, but provide some food for thought about this nation's role in an ever more closely-knit "global village."