Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Korea's bizarre reliance on Microsoft's Active-X

Yesterday I attempted to book a KTX ticket from Incheon to Busan online and was surprised to see that Korail, among other public organizations, continues to require the download and installation of a Microsoft Active-X control in order to complete the transaction.   At that point, I gave up my attempt to book the ticket, not wanting to expose my PC to the security risk that use of Active-X entails.
The problem of Active-X has been apparent for many years, as illustrated by these prior posts.   Three years ago, then- President Park Geun-hye assembled a large group of business leaders at the Blue House and implored them to stop using Active-X.   Today it is truly amazing that this issue continues to hamper Korea's online commerce.   It is a subject of media attention again, now that the new administration of President Moon Jae-In has promised to rid the country of its reliance on Active X.  See, for example, this article in The Investor.
Part of the problem is the continued widespread use of Microsoft's old Internet Explorer browser in Korea.   As shown in the first graphic (click for a full size version) the Chrome browser overtook Explorer in early 2012 on a worldwide basis.  In sharp contrast, according to Statcounter, usage of Chrome only overtook Internet Explorer in Korea as of early 2016, a full four years later. (click on the second graphic for a full size version)  In fact, Japan and Korea are the only major economies where a large portion of the population continues to use Internet Explorer.  Microsoft's new Edge browser does not support Active X because it is a security risk and the company has warned consumers of the dangers of Active X for years.  
At this point, "bizarre" is not too strong a word to describe South Korea's entrenched reliance on Active X.  It is damaging to the economy and a major security risk.  It may relate in part to this nation's heavy concentration on hardware manufacturing and export rather than software and services.    However, the rest of the world has long since moved away from Active-X and it is long past time that South Korea does as well, before this situation becomes even more of an embarrassment.

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