Saturday, March 29, 2014

President Park's Dresden Declaration: An Initiative for Peaceful Unification of Korea

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye yesterday delivered a powerful speech, (click on the accompanying photo to see a full size version) outlining her administration's approach to peaceful unification on the Korean peninsula.  Readers of this blog will know of my concern with the role of communication and telecommunications infrastructure in Korean unification, or as it is sometimes called "reunification."  (see a selection of past posts here)
President Park's speech resonated strongly not only with topics covered in this blog, but with me personally, for several reasons.
First, as the son of a Lutheran minister, I was struck by the fact that she chose Dresden, a city that was part of East Germany during the Cold War as the location for her speech.  As reported by The Korea Joongang Daily, her first visit while in Dresden was to the Frauenkirche, a Lutheran church destroyed during the bombing of Dresden during World War II.
 (Click on the accompanying AP photo of her visit to the church to see a full-size version.) As noted in the article, "Her visit to the historic site, which embodies eastern Germany’s rise from ruins to an economic powerhouse, is in tune with her intention to obtain a blueprint for the unification of the Korean Peninsula while in Europe. “President Park chose Dresden as the locale for her symbolic address to show both Koreas that unification may actually turn out to be an opportunity for prosperity,” a Blue House official said."
Second, as reported in another article by the same newspaper, President Park gave her address right after receiving an honorary doctorate from the Dresden University of Technology, one of the most prestigious schools in Germany. I believe that KAIST, where I currently work, has a number of ties and common interests with this university in Dresden.
Finally, President Park's speech contained three specific proposals to North Korea,.  The full text of President Park's address was printed by The Korea Herald.   While the selection of excerpts cannot do justice to such a powerful speech, several points made by President Park were of particular relevance to topics treated in this blog, including the following.
"As one who studied electronic engineering in college, I hold dear the belief that science and technology are the key to unlocking a nation's advancement. This is why I established the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning early in my presidency and have been highlighting the importance of building a creative economy."
President Park invoked the memory of her father and his visit to Germany, saying that "The Korean president who visited Germany at the time felt that Germany's rise from the ashes of the Second World War and its Miracle on the Rhine were feats that could be replicated in Korea. As he was driven on the autobahn and shown the steel mills of German industry, he became convinced that Korea too would need its own autobahn and its own steel industry to effect an economic take-off."
The second of President Park's three main proposals dealt with infrastructure.  She said, "Second, we must pursue together an agenda for co-prosperity through the building of infrastructure that support the livelihood of people. . . . To help make life less uncomfortable for ordinary North Koreans, Korea could invest in infrastructure-building projects where possible, such as in transportation and telecommunication."
I highly recommend reading the full text of this important address and initiative.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the Active-X issue in Korea

Yesterday I spoke with Jonathan Cheng, a Seoul-based staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, about the  Active-X issue discussed in my previous and numerous earlier posts.  His article, published today, provides a good overview of the current status of Active-X related regulations in Korea and their possible imminent change.  I also appreciate that he used one of the more important points we discussed when quoting me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Microsoft Active-X issue in Korea Near Resolution?

President Park Geun-hye held a deregulation forum last week at the Blue House and, not surprisingly, one of the hot topics was the continued requirement by many e-commerce sites and financial institutions that users download and install Microsoft Active-X controls to complete their online transactions.  South Korea's heavy reliance on Microsoft software is the subject of many earlier posts on this blog, so the discussions at the deregulation forum obviously caught my eye.
The Korea Joongang Daily carried an informative report today that, among other things, reported the results of a nationwide poll conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries. 78.6 percent of the respondents in the poll wanted the use of Active-X to be discontinued, while only 6.7 percent opposed the idea.  As shown in the accompanying graphic, when asked whether Korea needs another program, over 80 percent said it was "necessary" or "very necessary."
Active-X was designed by Microsoft many years ago, without any real consideration of today's security concerns.   Consequently, Microsoft itself acknowledged the problem years ago and its own web site contains quite a detailed explanation of the security problems Active-X can pose.
The FKI poll also reported some interesting data that shows Active-X interferes most of all with the consumer experience of online shopping and online banking, but is also viewed as a source of "discomfort" in other transactions.  The second graphic gives a breakdown of responses.
According to the  Korea Joongang Daily article,"Choi Moon-ki, the minister of science, ICT and future planning, said in the ministry’s workshop on Saturday that it will provide an online environment and online authentication certificate without ActiveX. The ministry is expected to work closely with the Financial Supervisory Service and Financial Services Commission to find solution for ActiveX problem."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SK mobile network crash affects 5.6 million users for six hours

Nearly six million users of SK Telecom's mobile network were surprised this week when the network crashed and left them without service for about six hours.   This almost unthinkable occurrence was, of course, widely reported in the local press.   As noted by the Korea Joongang Daily, the crash did not occur because of hacking or some type of cyber attack.  Instead, as reported by the newspaper, it occurred "Thursday after a piece of equipment that verifies the locations of subscribers malfunctioned. The equipment, called Home Location Registration (HLR), is the main database of permanent subscriber information for a mobile network. The HLR was disrupted at a peak traffic time and could not distinguish SK Telecom users to transmit signals. According to the company, it only took 24 minutes to repair the equipment. But the blackout of services created a sudden rush of traffic as phone users tried to get back online, which overwhelmed the networks."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Forthcoming Washington D.C. conference on "The Korean Experience: Lessons for LAC Development"

I've accepted an invitation to speak on the topic of Korea's leadership in global ICT development at a May 13-15 international conference, "The Korean Experience:  Lessons for LAC (Latin America-Caribbean) Development, sponsored by the Korean government Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Institutions for Development Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) It will be held at IDB headquarters in Washington, D.C.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Korea tops annual EU Innovation Index

The European Union has just published its annual Innovation Union Scoreboard report, which includes an index measuring innovation in EU countries and benchmarks them against other countries around the world.  As reported in the local press, including the Korea Joongang Daily, Korea this year topped the rankings,outperforming the United States, Japan, European Union and Canada.
The two charts above (click to see a full size version), from the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014 shows the top ten ranking nations on the EU's index (on the left) and their growth rates (on the right). Korea not only ranks number one on the  index, slightly ahead of the U.S. and Japan, but also leads in the measure of growth rate. (the full EU report can be downloaded here.)
The EU index is calculated from twelve different measures and the second graphic (click for full size version) is a bar chart that shows South Korea's performance lead over the EU, calculated by dividing Korea's indicator value by that of the EU and multiplying by 100.  (Note the following acronymns in the graphic:   PCT refers to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, MHT contr. refers to Medium and High Technology products and KIS refers to Knowledge Intensive Services.)
This new report will no doubt be welcomed by many here in Korea, both in the private sector and government, given the centrality of innovation to the overall goal of the Park Geun-hye administration to develop a "creative economy."  However, it should be kept in mind that this is only one of several international measures of innovation and its primary value may lie in what it says about how the European countries view Korea.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Smartphones, young students, and adult content

A new government poll showed that four out of five primary and secondary school students in Korea own smartphones and an increasing number of them are using their devices to view adult content.  The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family surveyed 10,062 students aged between 10 to 17 around the country. As shown in the accompanying table from the survey (click to see a full size version), if feature phone ownership is included 91.5 percent of all the students surveyed owned mobile phones. That compared with only 68.2 percent in a survey taken in 2007, before the arrival of smartphones in the Korean market near the end of 2009. Among elementary school students, the percentage of smartphone owners was 72.2 percent. As reported by Yonhap News, "About 16.1 percent of the students with mobile phones said they have used their phones to send or receive videos, photos and other content for adults over the recent year. The figure is up three times from 4.5 percent in 2011. About 25 percent of those surveyed said they have accessed adult content more than once a month through smartphones, Internet and various other media. The corresponding share was 18.6 percent among elementary school students while 6.9 percent were found to have accessed adult content at least once a week."