Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Samsung's Big Biotechnology Push in Songdo

Yesterday, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the third large production facility at Samsung Biologics.   It was a grant event, with over 500 guests invited, including President Park Geun-hye and a number of Ministers.  Although it was the first time I had been inside the Samsung Biologics complex, I felt a certain familiarity since I can see the facilities, less than a mile away, from the window of my apartment at SUNY Korea on the Incheon Global Campus. My view is only a bit more distant than the photograph included below (click for a full-size version).
As reported widely in the press, including The Wall Street Journal,  the third production plant for which groundbreaking was held yesterday will be the world's single largest biologic drug plant (measured by production capacity) when completed in 2018.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a larger version), Samsung intends to become the world's largest contract biologic drug maker by 2020.  
What I found most interesting about President Park Geun-hye's speech was how she noted the convergence of IT with biotechnologies and how this relates to her signature creative economy initiative.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Progress on the world's first public safety LTE network

Less than a month ago, KT demonstrated new technologies and devices designed to manage natural disasters and other emergencies at Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon.  Pyeongchang is the site of the forthcoming 2018 Winter Olympics and also the location of the first phase pilot project for Korea's Public Safety LTE network (PS-LTE).  As reported by The Korea Joongang Daily and illustrated in the accompanying photographs (click to see a full size version) "Among the displays were different drones capable of bringing LTE coverage to remote areas or locating missing people, as well as a portable LTE network base station built into a backpack." Although the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and other countries are also pursuing LTE networks for use by first responders and public safety organizations, it is highly likely that Korea will be the first country in the world to have an operational nationwide network.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The story behind Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea

Yesterday a blogger in Taiwan published a post that was based on his afternoon "tea reading" of my short Kindle book, Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea:  A Personal Perspective.  The accompanying graphic is a screenshot of that blog post (click to see a larger version of the screen capture).  Although I do not read Chinese, I ran it through a translation program and was pleased to see that the book I wrote five years ago, had not only attracted interest, but stimulated thought and questions by someone in Taiwan.
In the Winter of 2010 I found myself, somewhat unexpectedly, with time on my hands.   I had just left my position as Associate Director of the Fulbright Commission earlier in the Fall and was not yet certain about my next move.  Consequently, my wife and I moved from Seoul to the small house we'd built in Dunnae, a rural town right in the vicinity of the forthcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
As the author of this Kindle book, I have the ability to make it available free of charge for five days every quarter.   I've just done that, so if you check this link at Amazon.com, you can download it free of charge from December 10-12.  This is also for the benefit of students in the course I've taught this semester, EST 194 Patterns of Problem Solving.   Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Korean peninsula today: ICT leader and Digital Divide

The ITU has released its annual Measuring the Information Society report and, not surprisingly, South Korea ranks number one in the world on the ICT development index (IDI).  As noted here in earlier posts, the IDI debuted in 2009 as a successor to the ITU's earlier digital access and digital opportunity indices.
The map published by the ITU to show the global distribution of the new IDI clearly highlights the southern half of the Korean peninsula.   At the same time, while no data are reported for North Korea, the map vividly depicts the world's deepest, most tragic and poignant digital divide--that between South and North Korea.  If data were available for North Korea, they would undoubtedly show that it ranks near the bottom of all nations in the world on the IDI, owing to both lack of infrastructure and efforts by the government to control and limit the flow of information within, into and out of the country.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

South Korea's white hat hackers

An article in the UK-based Independent provides some interesting background on South Korea's efforts to defend against the cyber-warfare capabilities of North Korea's military-trained hackers.  The article notes that "To build its defences, President Park Geun-hye’s government has enlisted 120 of the country’s most talented young programmers, offering full scholarships in return for seven years of military service. The college programme is part of a broader plan. The government is doubling the size of its cyber command to 1,000 people and raised spending on information security by almost 50 per cent to 250bn South Korean won (£144m) between 2009 and 2015."
The article goes on to note how South Korea is playing catch-up to the North in the training of cyber warriors, having suffered large economic losses in a 2013 attack on banks and broadcasters that was traced to North Korea.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Exynos8 and progress in semiconductors

The invention of the transistor in 1947 was one of the key developments that launched the digital network revolution globally.  In the 1980s, South Korea managed to harness the power of that revolution for national development, in part by making its semiconductor industry globally competitive for the first time with the 4 MB DRAM project.
Semiconductors are essential building blocks of the hardware that makes up today's digital networks and Korea has never forgotten that, continuing to invest heavily into R&D, manufacturing and export of various semiconductor products.  Today, as reported by Korea IT News,   Samsung has started mass producing a new modem-integrated chip for use in mobile devices.  This is indeed another sign of advancement in this nation's semiconductor industry and its determination to remain a global leader.  The Korea IT News article has interesting detail for those of you who follow such developments.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Projected patterns of aging in Korea

One of the major factors that will influence the shape of Korean society and its economy in the coming decades is the demographic composition of the population.  South Korea is on track to see a rapid increase in the proportion of older people in its population, as shown by the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version), published together with an article in The Korea Joongang Daily.  As noted in the article, "Recent data jointly compiled by Statistics Korea and the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, shows that 72 of the country’s 252 cities, counties and districts (28 percent) will have a population of which over half is aged 65 or older by 2040. Namhae County, Hapcheon County and Uiryeong County, all in South Gyeongsang, will see their rates exceed 80 percent. Korea is currently categorized as an aging society, meaning that more than 7 percent of the country’s total population is 65 or older. The country is set to become an aged society by 2026, when more than 14 percent of the entire population will be 65 or older."
The graphic shows at a glance that suburbs and rural areas are going to age much more rapidly than the largest cities in Korea, reflecting the highly urbanized character of this nation's economy.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

STI Policies for the Global and Digital Age -- the Daejon Declaration

I think that the OECD ministerial meeting that just concluded in Daejon got it right, although their declaration has the somewhat lengthy title "The Daejon Declaration on Science, Technology and Innovation Policies for the Global and Digital Age."   The short account of this development is contained in the embedded television news clip from Arirang TV.   For the text of the full declaration, use this hyperlink.  Some highlights from the declaration follow.

It states "... our commitment to support science, technology and innovation to foster sustainable economic growth, job creation and enhanced well being, NOTING that achieving these goals will require adequate investment, and policy and regulatory environments that support strong and well-connected global science and innovation systems, and which also enable creativity and innovation throughout the economy and society, and RECOGNISE that changes in science and innovation systems, influenced by digitisation and globalisation, require that our national and international policy agendas and instruments be updated."

Furthermore, the ministers "AGREE that science, technology and innovation are being revolutionised by the rapid evolution of digital technologies, which are changing the way scientists work, collaborate and publish; increasing the reliance on access to scientific data and publications ("open science"); opening new avenues for public engagement and participation in science and innovation ("citizen science"); facilitating the development of research co-operation between businesses and the public sector; contributing to the transformation of how innovation occurs ("open innovation")."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"referral" spam and this blog

When I was growing up in South Dakota, "Spam" was the brand name of a pork product sold in supermarkets.  Years later, on arrival in Korea I became aware that canned Spam had become popular in Korea during the Korean War, as it was introduced to countless hungry and displaced citizens during the devastating war.  Its popularity in grocery stores continues to this day, and it is often an ingredient in 부대찌개 or "armed forces stew," which I still enjoy whenever possible, at home or eating out!
My current concern is a far cry from my earliest knowledge of Spam.  It is called "referral spam" and while it does not affect this blog, it has a huge impact on the traffic statistics it records, and which I occasionally examine.  In recent weeks, I noticed a sharp, huge increase in referrals from web sites located in Russia and the Ukraine. Strange, I thought, because both of those countries are in the news these days and have their own share of serious problems to deal with.
So called "referral spam" seeks to capitalize on blogs, like mine, that include hyperlinks to the original sources of information.  I'm considering whether to completely discontinue inclusion of the hyperlinks in my posts.  Comments from readers are welcome. Do you prefer to have the hyperlinks included in the posts or not?  Feel free to comment or contact me directly via my personal web site, jamesflarson.com. Like most other spam, the referral spam out of Russia is annoying and I'd prefer to eliminate it completely!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Korea exports educational robots to Costa Rica

I have long felt that the robotics industry, and more specifically service robots, represent a major future growth engine for Korea, as indicated by a number of prior posts (viewable at this link) The recent victory of KAIST's Hubo in the 2015 Darpa Challenge provided dramatic video evidence of how far the robotics industry has progressed.
In another sign of the times, as reported by The Korea Joongang Daily, SK Telecom will export smart bots to Costa Rica for the training of teachers and use in schools there. According to the article, "According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the two parties reached an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Thursday to send some 1,500 educational robots, known as Albert, to 6,000 students and 600 teachers over the next three years. The first shipment begins this month. Albert is designed to help teach math, including numbers, basic calculations and pattern recognition, among other subjects."  (click on the accompanying graphic for a full size version) Furthermore, "A total of $2.4 million will be spent to train teachers in the region and develop an official education curriculum that utilizes the bot. IDB will spend $1.5 million in developing the curriculum, while the Trade Ministry and SK Telecom will give $750,000 in providing the robots. The Costa Rican government will kick in $150,000 to train teachers."   This is far from a frivolous exercise.  South Korea has years of experience with the use of robots in schools, as documented by some of my earlier posts.  Given the projected size of the worldwide market, this is a development worth watching.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

American views and the future of the Korea-U.S. alliance

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has released another in its continuing series of public opinion polls measuring the views of Americans on issues related to Korea and the U.S.-Korea alliance.  The headline from the report published by the council zeroes in on the finding that, "..in a hypothetical North-led invasion of South Korea, 47 percent of the American public support the use of U.S. troops to defend South Korea (49% opposed).  This marks an all time high.  When the question was first asked in 1974, fewer than two in ten stated support."  In other findings, 55% of Americans viewed North Korea's nuclear weapons program as a critical threat.  This, along with mainstream press coverage of North Korea's young leader and his sometimes bizarre behavior are the most likely cause of increased public support for defending South Korea, if it is attacked.  Remember, in historical perspective, that the Korean war itself was unpopular with the war-weary American public after WWII and that reality helped sweep Dwight Eisenhower to a landslide victory in the 1952 presidential election.
One of the poll findings that I found most interesting was the shift in public views in the U.S. about what should happen after North and South Korea reunify.  As shown in the accompanying graphic, the number who think that the U.S. should maintain its alliance but remove ground troops increased substantially from the 2010 poll results.  I have long held the view that most all of the U.S. forces in Korea should be withdrawn upon unification, and perhaps even used as an incentive to encourage peaceful unification.  The only reason for maintaining such a large presence here would be if the reunified Korea requested it and if the regional security situation demanded it.  However, peaceful unification itself would remove the main reason for such a large U.S. military presence here.  A firm foundation for the future alliance between Korea and the U.S. is much more likely to be based on such factors as trade, technology, and commerce along with continued significant educational exchange and collaboration.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Markets in North Korea are nothing new!

Yesterday I read an interesting book review post by Andrei Lankov on Reason.com titled "North Korea's Grassroots Capitalism:  How creeping market forces are improving life in the Hermit Kingdom".  He reviewed a book by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson.   The review, and presumably the book, describe North Korea's nascent market economy with some interesting detail, noting that "The first sentence of the first chapter makes things clear: "'Communist' and 'collectivized' are utterly outdated labels for a North Korean economy which now heavily relies on thriving person-to-person market exchanges in which individuals buy and sell private property for the purpose of generating profit."" (The photograph at the left is of a roadside market in Chongdan County, in southwestern North Korea. Click to see a full-size version) Later Lankov notes that "The private economy, however powerful, remains in a kind of limbo, neither recognized nor systematically suppressed by the state." The The book apparently contains a great deal of anecdotal evidence about the penetration of computers, mobile devices, USB sticks and the like in North Korea.
 Lankov's review concludes with the observation that "Remarkably, all this marketization was essentially spontaneous. The old Leninist command economy quietly expired after it was deprived of the Soviet subsidies that had kept it afloat, and the North Korean people more or less created a new system from scratch. There were no neoliberal economic advisers, and there was no reform drive from above. At best, the government was willing to turn a blind eye on developments that contradicted the official line. The new system emerged by itself—a result, as the Leninists used to say, of "the collective creative activity of the toiling masses."" I'm going to read the book, but based on the review alone, I think a major point has been overlooked. For most of its history, Korea was an agrarian, peasant society, and periodic markets are a part of that history stretching from ancient times to the present. The photographs of North Korean markets embedded in this post look pretty much like the periodic markets (farmers markets we might call them) that spring up on a regular basis all over South Korea, but are more common in small towns and rural areas than in the largest cities.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fukushima and Korea's green vs nuclear dilemma

Some of you may wonder what the accompanying photo from the Fukushima nuclear disaster exclusion zone (click to see a full size version) has to do with a blog on Korea's digital development.  Actually, it has a lot to do with it.  Back in 1980, Korea was facing desperate circumstances, politically, economically and socially.  It was at that point that it embarked on digitization and modernization of its basic nationwide telephone network, to augment a commitment already underway to build a strong education infrastructure.  As a resource-poor nation, utterly destroyed by the Korean War, South Korea had little choice but to pursue these paths.  The choice to rely heavily on nuclear energy was made for similar, very rational reasons.
However, those early energy policy choices have come under public and policy questioning in recent years.  The Korean government shifted decisively to a green growth policy during the first decade of the new millennium.  Subsequently, the Fukushima disaster had a profound impact on public and policy support for nuclear energy here in Korea.  Fresh seafood is a part of daily life in Korea, and much of it comes from waters surrounding Japan and the Korean peninsula. Consequently, the question of possible radiation contamination of seafood purchased in Korea's largest seafood markets was a dominant concern in the mainstream media here for months after Fukushima.
When it comes to public and policy support for nuclear energy in South Korea, the picture has become more complex.  To illustrate, I recommend a current article in The Diplomat by a Harvard Kennedy School researcher.  Photographs, such as the one used with this post, capture dimensions that need to be included in the policy debate.  More on this issue in future posts.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Korea as an ICT leader: additional evidence

I'm thinking a lot these days about South Korea's current status in the world as a leader in broadband networks and in the ICT sector more generally.  Thus I was pleasantly surprised to read the OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015, as it provides a great deal of updated and improved empirical data that helps researchers and policymakers to better situation Korea within the global digital network revolution.
The headline and chart that caught my eye had to do with the value added by the ICT sector in South Korea compared with other countries. (click to see a full size version) While the share of ICTs in OECD total value added remained stable at 5.5 percent, in Korea that was a world-leading 10.7 percent, largely because of a strong specialization in computer, electronic and optical products.
There is much much more in the OECD report.  For example, in the twelve-year period between 2001 and 2013 Korea was the only OECD country to increase its share of the world market for ICT goods.  In 2013 it was the fourth largest exporter of ICT goods in the world, following China, the United States and Singapore.  However, the report also documents how Korea ranked 25th in the world as an exporter of ICT services.   To place this in context, one has to consider that, according to most industry estimates, approximately three quarters of the global ICT sector market consists of software and services, while hardware makes up less than one quarter.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mini-drones at the DMZ, Comparing North and South Korean Technology

A report in The Korea Times announced that indigenous mini-drones would be used to monitor North Korean border units.  It caught my attention mainly because it dramatically illustrates the gap between current military technology in South Korea and that in North Korea. According to the report, "The Ministry of National defense said Wednesday that indigenous mini drones will be deployed with Army and Marine border units to monitor North Korean units. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) held an event to celebrate initial production of the RemoEye-002Bs in Daejeon the same day. "From this year to 2017, RemoEye-002Bs will be deployed with border infantry units of the 1st and 3rd Army, as well as units of the Marine Corps," the ministry said in a release." To underscore my main point, I encourage you to view the embedded YouTube video about the new South Korean drone technology and then glance at the photograph below (click for a full-size version) of a North Korean drone that was recovered in South Korea last year.  As The Washingon Post put it in describing the photo, "If these unmanned aircraft look rudimentary, it's probably because they are: Not only did they all crash, but with only a poor quality camera that could not take video, and no way to broadcast the images, their use as a spy plane is severely limited."   So, compare the video with this photo and draw your own conclusions.

A note from the Daejon Global Innovation Forum

I'm back in Daejon this week, attending the 2015 Daejon Global Innovation Forum and several related events.  The forum is being held at the Daejeon Convention Center (DCC), located right near the site for the 1993 Daejon Expo, which I visited on two occasions.  The neighborhood is transformed with the addition of gleaming new apartments, shops and the Lotte City Hotel right across the street where I'm staying.
On Tuesday I made a presentation as part of the 2015 UNESCO- World Technopolis Association (WTA) International Training Workshop.  The topic for the session in which I participated was "Network for Active Academia-Industry-Government Collaboration in STP and Technopolis."   Daejon, like Incheon Songdo where I now live and work is part of the nationwide network of technoparks.  The location of these parks is shown on the accompanying map (click for a full-size version). Further details are available at the website of the Korea Technopark Association.  I've been learning a lot about the history and growth of techno-parks in Korea and around the world, and how this movement relates to the more recent emphasis on venture startup campuses and ecosystem.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Smart phones as commodities: more evidence from Korea's market

The Chosun Ilbo carried an interesting short report today entitled "Affordable LUNA smartphone sells out in 10 days." According to the article, "SK Telecom, which exclusively markets the phone, said Sunday the first batch of orders was expected to run out within the next day or two." "That means daily sales averaged 3,000 units, which is more than Samsung's affordable Galaxy A8 unveiled in July. The LUNA has similar features as high-end smartphones but costs only W449,900 (US$1=W1,188). It bears a close resemblance to the iPhone 6 Plus."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Korea as public safety network leader: reflections on 20th and 21st century media and networks

The day after tomorrow I'll spend the day at the G-Tower here in Songdo, attending and participating in a daylong seminar on "Networks and communication in disasters:  risk reduction as a business opportunity," co-organized by SUNY Korea with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in Songdo and Korea's SafeNet Forum.  I alluded to this in an earlier post. Partly for that reason, an article in The Korea Times, entitled "Samsung pushes safety system in U.S." caught my attention. (click on the graphic to view a full sized version)   The article quotes an official from Samsung Electronics America as follows. "We know that the Korean government is working with venders to make the PS-LTE system operable by 2017," he said. "In the United States, it will be launched a little bit later and we are actively engaging to take part in the project, too."  Given that FirstNet.gov, the congressionally mandated organization charged with U.S. efforts to build a nationwide public safety LTE network has already testified before Congress that it hopes to have a network in operation by 2022, I predict that the U.S. network will follow Korea's by five years or more.  Even if this country does not achieve its goal of having a nationwide PS-LTE network in operation by 2017, it seems likely to do so before the U.S., or for that matter the UK, Canada or other countries in the race.
Finally, I should briefly mention another reason why participation in this week's seminar and membership in SafeNet Forum is such a privilege and important responsibility.  Many years ago, as a young Ph.D. just out of Stanford's communication program, I served as a consultant to the Committee on Disasters and the Mass Media at the National Academy of Sciences (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version) which was chaired by my dissertation supervisor, Professor Everett M. Rogers. Little did I realize, at the time, that I would have the opportunity later in life to revisit this important topic, albeit in the hyperconnected, digital network era!

Friday, September 4, 2015

ICT-energy convergence and the SK new Telecom- KEPCO agreement

The Korea Times article entitled "SKT, KEPCO to collaborate for smart grid, IoT, caught my eye yesterday because it provides just one more example of the quickening pace of digital convergence and the accompanying challenge to somehow harness the power of the digital network revolution to solve the problem of climate change.  Coincidentally, I'm helping to organize a session for the forthcoming International Conference on Climate Finance and Industry, 2015 to be held here in Songdo and would like to secure speakers or panelists from these two companies or others engaged in similar efforts.
As The Korea Times article notes,"SK Telecom, the nation's top mobile carrier . . . will work with Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) for new growth businesses including smart energy management systems. Under the agreement, the telecom company and the state-run power operator will jointly establish the next-generation electricity infrastructure and develop the smart grid systems based on the information and communication technology and energy technologies." Further detail provided in the article includes the following. "Under the agreement, the two companies will work to upgrade the advanced metering infrastructure, enhance energy consumption efficiency through telecom technologies and built nationwide smart grid by introducing smart technologies on electricity grids.SK Telecom and KEPCO will also build the "Bitgaram Energy Valley" district in Naju, South Jeolla Province, where the KEPCO headquarters is located, to promote mutual growth with smaller companies and the local economy. SK Telecom said it will open a laboratory to support research and development activities by small companies."

Friday, August 28, 2015

A ray of light from the darkness of the Sewol tragedy? Korea's Public Safety LTE networks

As briefly noted in a short post last April, South Korea plans to build a dedicated, nationwide public safety (PS) LTE network by 2017.  To place this large project in context, one should remember, as this blog noted over several years, that South Korea since the turn of the millennium posses the most extensive, advanced and fastest broadband networks in the world, while countries like the United States are still struggling to coordinate the efforts of localities, states, the private sector and the federal government to plan for and implement a nationwide broadband network.
In Korea, the commitment to build a PS-LTE network was given tremendous impetus by the tragic sinking of the Sewol Ferry in April 2015 in which more than 300 passengers and crew lost their lives, most of them high school students on a field trip to Jeju island.  On the government side, the Ministry of Public Safety and Security is playing a leading role in the PS-LTE network project, along with the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and other entities.  Another key player is the SafeNet Forum, an organization that includes all of the major network equipment manufacturers, mobile telecommunications service providers and the public safety organizations that will utilize the new dedicated network.  Earlier this summer I was invited to join the SafeNet Forum and become a member of its expert advisory committee.  Consequently, I plan to publish occasional updates on the progress of this organization and Korea's PS LTE networks.
While the tragic sinking of a ferry proved to be a catalyst for network planning and implementation in Korea, in the United States it was  the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 that made the provision of interoperable communications for first responders a national goal.  Accordingly in 2012 Congress created The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), a federal agency that includes private sector and other non-federal representation on its board of directors.  It was established as an "independent authority" within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce.
SUNY Korea is currently working with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction here in Songdo (UNISDR) and SafeNet Forum to plan a day-long seminar on September 15 on the topic of  "Networks and communication in disasters:  Disaster risk reduction as a business opportunity."  I look forward to that opportunity to learn more about Korea's efforts thus far and how they relate to FirstNet in the U.S. and similar efforts in other countries.  Here in Korea, while the initial effort will focus on building a basic PS-LTE network, there are related and longer term efforts to build a PS-LTE R network to serve the nation's railway system and a PS-LTE M network for maritime service.  At some future date, these three new, dedicated public safety networks will be interconnected.
I am particularly interested in the timetable for implementation of the networks, and how this relates to certain international decisions on applicable standards.  However, at this point it seems quite likely that Korea will complete construction of its new nationwide networks well in advance of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and other countries.  If so, this has major implications for Korea's role not only in the construction of these new networks themselves, but as a test bed for the development of services that they will enable in the interest of public safety all around the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Korean reunification in the hyperconnected, networked era

Two items appearing in the local (Korean) news these days caught my attention for the same reason.   One was the speech by opposition leader Moon Jae In in which he announced his vision for economic unification of Korea, as reported by Arirang TV in the embedded video.
The other news report that caught my attention was an article in The Korea Times reporting that Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, speaking in Seoul, suggested that cloud computing and mobility will be two of the keys to future industrial transformation.  Vestberg said that "The progress in mobile penetration is, in particular, beyond imagination. By 2020, mobile networks including 2G, 3G and the long-term evolution (LTE) will cover everyone worldwide except for approximately 300 million people. This is the single most influential technology in human history."
Perhaps the Ericsson CEO engaged in a bit of hyperbole, but not by much.
These two news items caught my eye because each of them reminded me of the central role that digital networks and related technologies have come to play in society, politics and economics all around the world.   They will be a decisive factor in shaping Korean reunification, not only in the economic sphere, but politically and socially as well.  Indeed, economic reunification itself will most likely be heavily influenced by the relative positions of North and South Korea in cyberspace and in terms of digital network infrastructure, as noted in numerous earlier posts.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Korean game developers in the global market

An interesting status report on the game industry appeared today in the Korea Joongang Daily.  It begins by noting that "Korean developers used to dominate the computer game industry, leading with innovative content. But as the market has moved to emphasize mobile games, local developers are having trouble keeping up. Some argue they are too focused on making a quick buck from gamers, rather than developing globally competitive content." The article contains some interesting historical background, noting that the first massive multiplayer online games were developed in Korea in the 1990s, when this country led the world in building nationwide broadband internet networks." However, as noted later in the article, "Last year, the scale of the domestic mobile game market was estimated to be 2.4 trillion won ($2.1 billion), the fourth-largest worldwide. But as the global market expands, Korea’s mobile gaming industry is expected to contract next year. The reason, analysts say, is because Korean mobile games are too conventional, and game developers are too focused on squeezing money from players. One of the most common phrases in Korean game development circles is that a “game starts and ends with experimental spirit.” But while foreign companies are experimenting with new game concepts and the creation of fresh new worlds, Korean developers have been busy trying to find new payment systems and addictive elements to generate revenue. Some blame KakaoTalk, Korea’s most popular mobile messenger application, for the dearth of innovative game developers. KakaoTalk created mobile games with the intention of increasing its users, rather than producing truly original content."
The article also presents some useful data on the current state of the global game market. (click on the graphic to see a full size version.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The incredible persistence of Active-X in Korea

A few days ago, after much consideration, I upgraded the OS on my Samsung ATIV Ultrabook from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.  My consideration and caution was due larger concerns about Microsoft software, about which I've posted frequently over the years.  One of these topics is the continued use of Active-X by Korean financial institutions, years after Microsoft itself warned the whole world about the security risks associated with installation of Active-X controls.   (If you're interested in the history, take a look at these posts, the first of which was back in 2009.  )
You can only imagine my surprise to read in the Korea Joongang Daily a few days ago, the article entitled "Latest Windows Upgrade Exposes Achilles Heel." (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full sized version)  Astonishingly, as noted by the article, "When the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 10 was generating buzz around the world, Korean Internet users were warned by government agencies not to install the latest operating system. The reason? A cumbersome authentication system known as ActiveX used by government agencies and financial companies in Korea - and few other places around the world. Though it does not work on all web browsers and requires users to download a hefty set of supporting programs, the system is still necessary for most Koreans to access government services or their bank accounts online. But Edge, Windows 10’s new default browser, will not support the authentication system. As the operating system’s July 29 release drew closer, government agencies scrambled to notify citizens not to install Windows 10. The National Tax Service (NTS) launched a pop-up notification on its Home Tax website where people can file their taxes electronically. The website is accessed by the vast majority of Koreans, because tax filing is now done completely online. “The service would not be optimized under Windows 10,” read a pop-up notification on the site."  There are other examples included in the full article.
What makes these latest developments all the more surprising is that the use of Active X persists long after President Park Geun-hye personally noted the problem in a Blue House meeting with business leaders.
In April of this year, as reported by BusinessKorea the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced that the government would repeal the Active-X security requirement and that 90 percent of the nation's websites would be free of it by 2017.  However, given the current state of affairs in which government entities are actively discouraging Korean citizens from upgrading to the latest version of the Windows operating system, things could explode into a much larger problem long before 2017!  All this bears close scrutiny.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Future networked robots in the Internet of Things

As readers of this blog will know, I've long been interested in the future of the robotics industry in Korea and Korea's role in the industry globally. (Just check out these posts)  Today, as reported in The Korea Times, LGU+ invested $2 million in the U.S.-based social robot maker JIBO. The article noted that "The move is expected to boost the company's efforts to lead the information and technology market in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT)."We have built a partnership with JIBO, aiming to leap to the world's No. 1 IoT-based company by 2020," an LG Uplus spokesman said Thursday."
Interestingly, JIBO is a social robot developed by MIT robotics professor Cynthia Breazeal, who explains its purpose in the embedded YouTube video. Another small, but very interesting indication of the future directions for service robots in Korea's aging society.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A snapshot of Korea's centers for creative economy and innovation

The Korea Joongang Daily today carried a very informative article on the current status of this nation's new network of creative economy and innovation centers.  The headline of the article, "Outside Seoul, new centers have a sleepy feeling," may be a bit misleading and it reminds me somewhat of comments frequently made about the new city of Songdo, where I live.  It seems to me that vacant space is something to be expected and "comes with the territory" when you build either a new city or a new nationwide network of venture startup centers.
As noted in the article and shown in the accompanying graphic, the creative economy centers were allocated to 17 cities and provinces around Korea and matched up with major companies, including the 10 largest conglomerates.  The overall tone of the article is largely critical and it makes some important points.  One is that the functions of the new creative economy centers overlap with existing techno-parks.  Another is that initiatives such as this tend to rise or fall at five year intervals along with changes in presidential administrations.  Finally, the article questions the depth of commitment to this network of centers by Korea's large conglomerates.  It quotes an executive from one as follows “I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years,” said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.”   We shall all see.   In fact, I suspect that the digital network revolution has unleashed forces that demand change even from the conglomerates which led Korea's development over recent decades.  That sort of change inevitably requires strengthening the nation's venture startup ecosystem.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Korea's creative economy and startup ecosystem: a personal note

Those who check this blog on occasion will know that my posts have been few and far between for the past month or so.  This is not for lack of interesting developments here in Korea.  To the contrary, so much has happened that I simply haven't had the time to share it with you.  However, I can report that the creative economy initiative of the Park Geun-hye administration appears to be alive and well.
In late June, as reported in an earlier post, I was in the island province of Jeju for meetings and research relating to South Korea's smart grid initiative.  Coincidentally, President Park Geun-hye visited Jeju City to dedicate another innovation center.  More recently, as reported in the  Korea Joongang Daily, the CJ Group joined the central and Seoul city governments in opening another such center, as shown in the accompanying photo.
Almost immediately upon my return to SUNY Korea from Jeju, I welcomed Danny Crichton to our campus for a two week visit, during which he and I co-taught (with Danny doing by far the bulk of the teaching on a subject in which he is already an expert) a Stony Brook University course on "How to Build a Startup."  Our students were 35 Korea University undergraduate juniors and seniors, along with one graduate student from the Department of Technology and Society here.  Danny and I first met when he was a Fulbright student scholar and I was a visiting professor at KAIST in Daejon.  We've stayed in touch and collaborated on different activities since.   Danny has posted much of the course content on his website and I encourage you to take a look at this link or through our SUNY Korea course website here!   The course was a great experience for the instructors, our graduate teaching assistant, Mr. Feng Jin and visitors.   It provided everyone with a fresh perspective on how current Silicon Valley startup practices stack up against one of the central challenges Korea faces to build a creative economy -- breaking into the global market for mobile software content and services!
The creative economy and the important role of startup ventures in it, will not happen in Korea overnight.  The change may indeed be slow and generational.   However, even for someone who lives and works in Korea, there is perceptible movement and change!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Korea ranks fourth in smartphone penetration

One of the remarkable changes occurring in the world these days is the extremely rapid diffusion of smartphones.  As reported widely in the local press, a new study shows that South Korea ranks fourth in the world in smartphone penetration.  The Korea Joongang Daily, in describing a report issued by the research arm of KT, noted that "...one of the biggest changes in the global market this year has been the rapid rise in new markets, such as Thailand, in the use of smartphones. In that country, the smartphone penetration rate rose 23.7 percentage points in one year. Two out of three Thais (63.7 percent) now carry a smartphone. Other emerging markets such as Brazil, Malaysia, Vietnam, Poland, Argentina, Turkey, Russia and Indonesia saw an increase in penetration of more than 15 percentage points over the past year."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Digital developments in Jeju, Korea's island province

I'm in Jeju where yesterday I attended a conference of The Korea Society for Innovation Management and Economics (KOSIME).  It was a full day of presentations by graduate students, professors and researchers from leading Korean institutions on a broad range of topics related to science, technology and innovation.  Three Ph.D. students from our Department of Technology and Society at SUNY Korea gave presentations in the morning sessions and two of my faculty colleagues are active in KOSIME.
Coincidentally, President Park Geun-hye visited Jeju yesterday for the official launch of The Jeju Center for a Creative Economy and Innovation.  It is part of a network of such centers being established around the country as part of the Park administration's creative economy initiative. Not surprisingly, as explained in the embedded video from Arirang News, the new Jeju center will focus initially on bringing the island's booming tourism industry into the digital age.
Another obvious focus for the center will be the energy sector and smart grid technology.  Jeju island, with its plentiful supply of both wind and sun, was chosen in 2009 as the site of the nation's smart grid pilot project.  For that reason, I'm extending my stay in Jeju for a few days in order to meet with executives of KEPCO and to visit their exhibition center on the smart grid pilot project.  More on this topic in future posts.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Team KAIST wins the DARPA robotics challenge--congratulations!

The accompanying video captures the moment, earlier this month, that a robot built at KAIST won the 2015 DARPA robotics challenge in California.
I was delighted to learn that a team from KAIST had won the challenge, for several reasons.
  • I taught at KAIST in 2012-2013 and had the opportunity to meet Professor Jun Ho Oh, who heads the Humanoid Robotics Research Center there.
  • The robotics industry and its role in future networks is of considerable interest to me and a frequent topic of this blog, as this selection of posts shows.
  • The theme of the DARPA robotics challenge (described in detail on the challenge website here) is disaster response, and SUNY Korea has just begun working more closely with the Songdo office of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). 
There are quite a few excellent photographs from the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge circulating on the internet, including the following one.
As you can see, Hubo was designed like a transformer, allowing the robot to perform a wider variety of tasks, one of which is shown in the following photograph.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sustainable energy, smart-grids, and Korea's islands

The title of an article recently published in the Korea Joongang Daily caught my attention, along with the illustrations it contained.  You see, I'm going to visit the island province of Jeju later this month and plan to extend my stay for the specific purpose of learning all I can and observing the results of a large smart-grid pilot project conducted there in recent years.  The title of the article, "Global sustainable energy starts on Korea's islands," also resonated with material being covered in the course I've taught this semester on ICT for development, which placed considerable emphasis on sustainability.  As noted in the article, "Tiny Gasa Island off the nation’s southwestern coast is perhaps best known for the special seaweed its residents export to Japan. But these days, it’s the wind turbines and solar panels making the island energy independent that are grabbing all the attention. (click on the graphic to see a full size version) The island is home to the nation’s first completely automated energy management system that powers Gasa Island’s homes and small businesses. Developed by the nation’s sole distributor, Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), the system also stores extra power in electricity storage system (ESS) batteries in case of outages. The fully charged batteries can provide enough electricity to supply the entire island for up to 24 hours."

"Before the microgrid facilities arrived, the island used to be entirely dependent on old and costly diesel power plants. In order to pay for power, the Jindo County government used to face an average operating loss of 700 million won ($629,000) every year. But after Kepco came in last October, the small island has shaved 150 million won from its power bill over the past six months." The article also noted that "The microgrid project on Gasa Island is one of Kepco’s test-bed communities, which the corporation hopes can demonstrate the viability of its systems for use on far-away islands and in mountain villages. So far, the government has worked with Kepco to transfer the system to 86 other islands around the peninsula." Reading about this project made me wonder just how many islands surround coast of South Korea. According to one government website there are more than three thousand islands, only about 400 of which are inhabited. In addition to their natural beauty, they comprise a potentially very valuable test bed for developing sustainable energy that might be exported and shared around the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Korean's preferred snacks vary by the hour

The Korea Joongang Daily today carried a short but interesting report made possible because of the popularity of online shopping and the associated data that are gathered electronically.  According to the article, "The snacks Koreans crave vary depending on the time of day, a study by online shopping mall Gmarket showed Monday. Before noon, the most frequently ordered bites were filling items like bread, chocolate and pizzas. After lunch, buyers preferred lighter and more refreshing snacks like candy, gum and ice cream." (click on the graphic to see a full size version)  The study is one specific illustration of the uses for the big data that accumulates as people move to cloud-based and mobile, digital media for their daily activities, including shopping. A quick glance at the overall pattern suggests that there may be public health as well as marketing implications to this study by Gmarket!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Government to open mobile market to a new, fourth player

As reported widely in the local press, including the Korea Joongang Daily the Korean government has decided to allow a fourth player into the mobile telecommunications market.  According to the article,"The government Thursday introduced a plan to allow a fourth telecom into the Korean mobile telecommunications market, which has been dominated by SK Telecom, KT and LG U+. The government said an additional player will trigger competition and lower monthly telecom bills." The Korea Joongang Daily went on to note that "Cutting back household spending on telecom bills was one of President Park Geun-hye’s election pledges in December 2012. “Looking at overseas examples like France, Spain and Japan, those countries succeeded in reducing household telecom bills by up to 43.9 percent last year, when compared to the past when there was no new carrier,” said Cho Gyu-jo, director of the ICT Ministry’s telecommunications policy division." (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version)
Not surprisingly, the government's announcement of this move was opposed by the three existing carriers, who argue that competition is already overheated and that the addition of another carrier is only likely to increase such competition.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

North Korea hopes for investment from the South

A very interesting investigative piece appeared a few days ago in the Korea Joongang Daily. (click on the graphic to see a full sized version) Entitled "Pyongyang hopes for investment from the South," it noted that "Several informants told the JoongAng Ilbo that North Korea is hoping that major South Korean conglomerates will set up manufacturing plants and other operations in North Korea. “High-ranking North Korean government officials and businessmen said they are hoping that South Korean conglomerates would invest in North Korea’s regional and industrial complexes,” Han, a Korean-American who wished only to be identified by his family name, told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday after holding a meeting with a North Korean official at the Ministry of External Economic Affairs in Pyongyang last month."
As shown in the accompanying graphic, North Korea reportedly wants South Korean companies to invest in its infrastructure.  Curiously, only one of these projects involves the ICT sector, per se, and that is a hoped-for electronics complex north of Pyongyang.
The article also notes the obvious need to establish some political stability in the North, if there is to be significant investment outside of Kaesong by leading South Korean firms.  It concludes by noting that "South Korean business groups are urging the government to push forward economic cooperation with North Korea as they are feeling some competitive heat, including from China and Japan, which have shown interest in advancing into North Korea’s . “It would be too late if South Korean companies advance into North Korea after the relationship between the two Koreas improves,” said Lim Eul-chul, professor at Kyungnam University. “We have to keep in mind the fierce competition with China, Japan and Russia.” "

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Big data hub in Chuncheon at Kangwon National University!

My first university teaching job started eight years before I earned the Ph.D. in communication at Stanford University and began teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. The job came to me as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Korea, assigned with my "K-16" cohort colleagues to teach English as a second language in universities throughout Korea. My assignment was to teach in the English Education department at Kangwon National University in Chuncheon.
Given all that transpired since that early experience in Korea, you can only imagine my pleasant surprise to learn that Kangwon National University, with support from Naver and the government, has established a "big data hub" on its campus. As reported in the Korea Joongang Daily, "According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning on Monday, Naver opened the nation’s 10th creative economy innovation center in Chuncheon on Monday along with a start-up fund worth 105 billion won ($96.2 million) dedicated to foster start-ups specializing in big data. The center occupies two buildings on the Kangwon National University campus in Chuncheon with about 1,270 square meters (13,670 square feet) of space. Start-ups can move in and work with the university’s entrepreneurship support center."
As shown in the accompanying photo from Korea.net, President Park Geun-hye attended the opening of the new center in Chuncheon (click to see a full-size version of the photo).  In the Korea.net article, she is quoted as saying "In the past, Gangwon-do supported Korea's industrialization with its natural resources, such as minerals, but from now on, it will help the Korean economy leap ahead with new resources, like big data," said the president. "Big data, as important as petroleum was in the 20th century, is the new capital for a creative economy. It creates added-value and jobs that require creativity and new ideas, with very few physical resources."  Those remarks by President Park are yet another indicator that she has a deep understanding of digital convergence and the underlying dynamics of the digital network revolution.
As a young American Peace Corps Volunteer, I taught at a provincial university that was at that time a relatively small one, based on agriculture and related departments.  At the time, I was incapable of imagining what might happen to this nation, thanks to its investment in education, and consequently its ability to harness the power of the digital network revolution!  My deep and sincere congratulations to the people in Gangwon Province, Chuncheon and Kangwon National University, who made this transformation possible.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Google opens its first Asia startup campus in Seoul

In a possible sign that Korea's venture start up ecosystem has reached a tipping point, Google yesterday opened the doors of  Google Campus Seoul in Daechi-dong, part of the affluent Gangnam district.  It is the first such campus in Asia, and follows establishment of campuses by Google in London and Tel Aviv.   Google also plans to open campuses later this year in Madrid, Sao Paulo and Warsaw. The Arirang TV report embedded with this post provides a glimpse of the new Google Campus in Seoul.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A perennial problem: naming ministries in English

As reported in The Korea Times and other local press, the government plans to revise the English names of some ministries in an effort to eliminate the confusion caused among non-Koreans from around the world by strange-sounding, grammatically incorrect or inaccurate English names.  The problem that the government seeks to address originates in part because of the government reorganizations that occur like clockwork every five years when a new president is elected in South Korea.  However, at the core of the matter is the simple linguistic reality that Korean cannot be literally translated into English, and vice versa.  Therefore, I read The Korea Times article and a similar one in The Korea Herald with a sense of surprise that the government is undertaking a task which is ultimately impossible to completely fulfill.  However, this is not to suggest that there is no room for improvement.  A case in point would be the influential Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) which was introduced by the Park Geun Hye administration in early 2013.  A number of my blog posts (review them here) dealt with the nature of the new ministry and public discussion of its official name name, which was not officially decided until early April 2013.  I even suggested that the English name for the new ministry might include "innovation."   If I were asked today to nominate an English name for the ministry, it would probably be Ministry of Science and Innovation.  I would argue that the term "innovation" implies both future and technology, and the "planning" is not needed in the English name since it does not appear explicitly in the Korean title for the ministry, as shown by the following literal translations of the words in the Ministry's Korean title.
미래 future
창조 creation
과학 science
부   ministry

Learning from Korea's world-leading mobile commerce

Given that South Korea has the fastest, most extensive mobile broadband networks and the highest penetration of smartphones in the world, it should come as little surprise that mobile shopping is rising exponentially here. (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version)  As noted in a recent report by the McKinsey Group,more than two thirds of South Koreans own a smartphone, "... compared with 47 percent of Americans, 57 percent of Australians, and 52 percent of Britons. South Koreans are also big users of their smartphones, with sales of goods purchased using mobile devices jumping more than fourfold since 2012 to about 10 trillion won, or $9.8 billion."  The mobile commerce market in Korea today represents nearly one third of all web-based sales.  Clearly, mobile commerce is one of many areas where Korea serves as an interesting test-bed for other markets around the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

All books e-books by 2015?

While doing a routine web search this afternoon, I ran across a 2011 article in the The Christian Science Monitor in which I was quoted to support the prediction that all textbooks in South Korea would be e-books by 2015. (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full sized version)  It is now 2015, so I am obliged to inform you that all textbooks in South Korea are not yet e-books.   I stand by my prediction, quoted in the article, that “South Korea’s transition to a totally networked society has profound implications for the publishing industry.” However, it appears that teachers, administrators and students at all levels of education have different preferences and fall into different segments when it comes to the digital transformation or disruption. Personally speaking, although I have written a number of academic books and monographs, I do not long for the smell and texture of high-quality paper, at least for my research-related reading. Instead, not possessing a photographic memory of what I wrote some years ago, I prefer the capability to search for words and phrases that an e-book provides, not to mention the added benefits of cloud based access to material as I move around our Incheon Global Campus, Korea, the Asian region, or the world. The printed books would simply be too heavy to bring along, and I don't mean intellectually heavyweight!

"Affordable" phone market grows!

As reported in the Korea Joongang Daily and other media, the market for "affordable" mobile phone service provided by mobile virtual network operators, experienced continued healthy growth last year. According to the Korea Joongang Daily article, "More users are flocking to thrifty phone providers that rent network space from Korea’s largest mobile carriers as the government regulation on subsidies for smartphones has caused phone bills to surge amid a tough economy. According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the number of thrifty phone subscribers surpassed the 5 million mark, with its market share hitting a new high of 8.8 percent. The latest findings are based on records as of April 21." (click on the graphic to see a full size version)
"In 2011, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) authorized smaller businesses to provide wireless communications services. Called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), the smaller vendors offer telecom services that slash monthly phone bill by 20,683 won ($19.20) compared to regular service, the ministry said. That translates into savings of more than 240,000 won per year, 57 percent cheaper than the service offered by Korea’s largest mobile carriers - SK Telecom, KT and LG U+."
While affordable phone services initially appealed to older people, a younger demographic is currently turning to these services. "The Science Ministry cited subscribers to the cheaper service offered by Korea Post to highlight the trend. “Those in their 30s and 40s form 32.2 percent as of April 21,” the ministry said in a statement. “And the number has consistently increased.”"

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Al Gore on "The reality of the climate crisis and road forward for humanity"

I'm teaching a new course at SUNY Korea this spring on ICT for development (ICT4D), so the recent speech by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore as part of the Haas School of Business' Dean's Speaker Series at U.C. Berkeley caught my attention.  Two themes that run through my course are the challenge of environmental sustainability, on the one hand, and the possibilities presented by new digital networks and information and communication technologies (ICT) on the other.  Gore's speech in California was a sharp reminder that these two themes cannot be thought of separately.  The vantage point of the course I'm teaching is that of South Korea's recent experience of ICT-led development, since this country managed to harness the power of the digital network revolution more successfully than any other developing nation to date for socioeconomic development.  I strongly recommend the video embedded with this post.  The substantive part of his speech starts at about 11 minutes 30 seconds in.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

U.S. Policy on Korean Unification: CSIS roundtable on "China's policy toward Korean peninsula reunification"

The series of discussions being held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington and led by Victor Cha, are off to a strong start.  The topic of the April event, co-hosted by the Global Peace Foundation, caught my attention as I have posted regularly (those of you who don't regularly read this blog may wish to review these posts) over recent years on the topic of Korean unification and the role of communication and the ICT sector in it.  However, I must confess that, after viewing the main presentation by Sid Seiler, Special Envoy for the Six Party Talks at the Department of State, I was disappointed.  Apparently, the U.S. government has still not grasped the need to come out with a clear statement, at this stage of history preferably from the President or the Secretary of State, on official U.S. policy toward Korean unification.
I cannot count the number of times, over my years in Korea, that I've listened to Korean colleagues or acquaintances tell me that they believe the United States is "opposed" to Korean unification.  I dare say this is a fairly widespread view in South Korea, and not without justification.  From the 1970s, when I first set foot in Korea, to the present, there has been no clear articulation, at the highest levels (meaning President or Secretary of State)  of U.S. government policy relating to Korean unification.  If you take the time to view Ambassador Seiler's  presentation on the embedded video, you'll understand my continuing disappointment.

Friday, April 24, 2015

ICT4D: U.S.-Korea Cooperation in Overseas Development Assistance

The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently convened a meeting on the topic of  "The United States, South Korea and Civil Society Cooperation in Global Humanitarian Development."  That meeting and the YouTube video embedded in this post caught my attention for many reasons, including the following.

  • I was a Peace Corps Volunteer (University TESOL Program at Kangwon National University) back in 1971-72 when Korea was a developing country and international aid recipient.
  • I subsequently studied for the Ph.D. in Communication at Stanford University during a period when the Institute for Communication Research had a large program in communication (at that time "mass media") for development.
  • Upon returning to Korea as a Fulbright scholar at Yonsei University prior to the Seoul Olympics, and later working as an administrator with the Korea Fulbright Commission, I personally witnessed many of the dramatic changes that took place as this country made the transition from an aid recipient to that of an economically and technologically advanced aid donor country.
  • In 1992, the major focus of my research shifted to the study of digital technologies and networks, and the manner in which Korea leveraged the digital network revolution for socioeconomic development.  My first book on the topic, The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea, was published in 1995.
  • Last year I joined the faculty of the Department of Technology and Society at SUNY Korea in Songdo and in January of this year became its chair.  In collaboration with industry, government, citizens and international organizations, we are sharpening our research, teaching and training focus on the ICT sector and especially its role in sustainable development (ICT4D).
Given the above and more, I was pleased to view the video of the recent event at CSIS, hosted by my friend and colleague (a former Korea Fulbright grantee), Victor Cha.   I commend it to you.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Galaxy 6 in Japan: History, brand image, and country of origin

As reported by The Chosun Ilbo yesterday, "Samsung has removed its corporate logo from its Galaxy S6 smartphones sold in Japan amid deep distrust of Korea and Korean technology in the island country. Instead, the sleek smartphones features only the Galaxy brand name, as do all accessories." (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version)  According to the article, Japanese consumers have long favored domestic technology over imports.  It notes that "When it unveiled the Galaxy S3 in Japan in 2012, Samsung ranked third after Fujitsu (21.4 percent market share) and Apple (18.4 percent) with 14.8 percent of the market. But anti-Korean sentiment stoked by a new far-right government meant the Galaxy S5 fared poorly, and Samsung's share of the Japanese market fell to 10.7 percent in 2013 and to 5.6 percent last year."  The article concludes by quoting an industry insider who said "Japanese are very loyal to their national brands and have become wary after seeing their once-mighty brands get beaten by foreign rivals on the global stage."  It would appear that the industry insider is close to the mark.  In recent decades, leading Japanese electronics manufacturers have seen their lead in the global market eclipsed by Korean firms.  Still, this move by Samsung to remove its corporate logo is a sharp reminder of the importance of brand image and country of origin in promoting a brand.  In a broader sense, it may also indicate the difficulty Japan has in dealing with its 20th century history, which included forcible colonization of Korea.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The PS-LTE network: Disaster communications as a business opportunity

The mainstream news media in South Korea are filled with reports these days about the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry one year ago today.  The fact that most of those who lost their lives in that accident were high school students on a field trip to Jeju island only broadened and deepened the nation's anguish.  In all my years living in Korea, I cannot recall an event that affected the whole nation and its entire citizenry so profoundly.  It took months for the economy, politics and social affairs to return to some semblance of normality.
One effect of the the Sewol ferry tragedy was to accelerate this nation's planning for future disaster communications. The disaster exposed the lack of interoperability among responding agencies which hindered rescue efforts.  Last year the Korean government announced plans to build a Public Safety LTE network (PS-LTE) and allocated frequency for it.  As reported by BusinessKorea in January, the national disaster safety communications network would be the first of its kind in the world, and is scheduled for completion by 2017.  The report noted that, according to industry and government sources,"...the national disaster safety communications network project is estimated to be worth 2 trillion won (US$1.85 billion). However, the size of the project is expected to increase to more than 3 trillion won (US$2.8 billion) if 10 year-maintenance costs are included."
The project has drawn considerable interest from both domestic and international companies.  Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent held an event to showcase their PS-LTE technology in January, as did Ericcson-LG, which is collaborating with Nokia Networks and Motorola.  More recently, as reported in The Korea Times, KT announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics in a bid to win the PS-LTE contract.
Other countries, including the U.S., the UK and Canada, have plans to build public safety networks, but Korea's will be the first.  Consequently, regardless of which companies win the contract, this country will serve as the world's test bed for such networks, offering new business opportunities both here and abroad.

Friday, April 10, 2015

KOTESOL Annual Conference, May 30: More on digital divides in Korea

As readers of this blog already know, I was invited to give a lecture on "Digital divide and disruption in Korea," earlier this year at Florida State University. That visit was the subject of a short post.  Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to speak on the same topic at the annual national conference of KOTESOL, scheduled for May 30, at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul.  The theme for this year's conference is "Bridging the digital divide:  Examining online language teaching in Asia."  The theme allows me an opportunity to elaborate on the earlier lecture by including some thoughts about the role of natural language and education in relation to digital divides, both their creation and efforts to eliminate or "bridge" them.  This is an important topic and one of longstanding interest to me personally, having spent two years as a university TESOL instructor and American Peace Corps Volunteer at Kangwon National University in Chuncheon.  That was decades ago, before the digital network revolution, and what a difference Skype, Google hangouts and other internet video conferencing tools make!
The video accompanying this post (above) offers a brief sketch of my planned lecture, but to hear my latest thoughts on the subject, and to have a chance to question or challenge me, you'll have to attend the conference.  For that reason, I'm including the conference poster in this post. Serious suggestions and comments about issues or topics that I might address in my conference presentation are, of course, welcome.  If you don't choose to comment on this post, feel free to visit my personal website and use the "Contact Jim Larson" form.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The K-ICT strategy to realize the creative economy

On March 24 the powerful Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) released its K-ICT strategy, providing a vision for how this nation intends to transform itself into a "creative economy," the central policy initiative of the Park Geun-hye administration.  I have not yet seen a full English translation of the announcement of the K-ICT strategy, but readers can access the Korean press release using this hyperlink.  The video accompanying this post provides a quick overview of some of the high points in the strategy.  If anyone ever doubted the ambitious nature of Korea's goals for its ICT sector and the role of that sector in future economic growth, this new five-year strategy or "roadmap" should put those doubts to rest.  While the MSIP announcement clarifies the size of this country's investment and the main economic and industry sectors that are involved, it also raises some questions.  For example, the strategy includes a plan to demonstrate 5G mobile technology at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, scheduled for less than three years from now. The success of such an effort depends on progress toward internationally agreed standards for 5G and whether that will occur in time for Pyeongchang is open to question.  Furthermore, one can argue that the real impact of 5G mobile communication will have more to do with the sort of content, applications and services that can be displayed.  Here Samsung Electronics, which just signed a major domestic sponsorship deal with the Pyeongchang organizing committee, and is a leading TOP sponsor of the Olympics globally, should take note.  During the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Samsung distributed thousands of Galaxy Note 3 devices to Olympic athletes and other member of the Olympic family.  While a similar effort with next generation mobile devices will no doubt be part of the plan for Pyeongchang, Samsung may miss a golden opportunity if it does not simultaneously release an array of  applications targeted at the international visitors who will come to Korea before, during and after the 2018 Winter Olympic games and the global television audience. The time to develop and market such apps is now, not in 2018.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wireless charging era dawns with Galaxy S6

I agree with the general point made in a recent article in The Korea Joongang Daily that the Samsung Galaxy S6 represents the dawn of the wireless charging era.  This constitutes another small, but important hardware-related innovation by Korea's leading electronics firm.  All other things equal, consumers around the world will prefer wireless to "wired" charging of their smart devices, just as they prefer mobility to the older desktop machines that were tethered to an electrical outlet and RJ45 connector for high speed internet access.
Having acknowledged this, the central looming challenge for Samsung Electronics and Korea's other leading smart phone manufacturers is to begin offering innovative and attractive software, applications and services for these devices.