Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Revisiting the Rise and Fall of PC Bangs (a.k.a. Internet Cafes) in Korea

 


As readers of this blog will know, I've long been following the introduction, growth and decline of PC Bangs (literally PC Rooms), also known as Internet Cafes, in South Korea.   A search for "PC Bang" will locate a number of my earlier posts and provide some background on the main factors accounting for the emergence of PC Bangs and their eventual decline.  The graphic presented here charts the number of PC Bangs in Korea from their introduction in 1998 through 2020, as estimated by the Korea Creative Content Agency in their annual white papers on Korean games. (click on the graphic to see a full size version with the numbers legible at the top of bars)  Several patterns in this graphic are noteworthy.

First, the explosive growth in the number of PC Bangs from 1998 to 2000 coincided with the rapid growth of broadband internet services, led by Thrunet's cable modem service, followed shortly thereafter by Hanaro Telecom's entry into the market with DSL service.

Second, the decline in number of PC Bangs starting in 20010 coincided with the arrival of Apple's iPhone to the Korean market.  This arrival came two years after its introduction in the U.S. and after it had become popular in about 80 other countries.   2009 was also the year that Samsung and LG began manufacturing Android smart phones.  The improving technical capabilities of Android and Apple smart phones contributed to the growth of mobile games, at the expense of those played in PC Bangs or Arcades.

Third, from 2016 to 2019 there was a slight resurgence in the number of PC Bangs as Internet Cafe franchises entered the market and owners adapted to government regulations about the sale of food in them.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Death of Internet Explorer goes viral

 


Readers of this blog will know that I've long been interested in Korea's heavy dependence on Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, years after Microsoft itself warned against its use (click here for posts on IE and cyber-security).  The tombstone displayed in this photo (click for a full size version) was made by a Korean software engineer and displayed on the roof of his brother's cafe in Gyeongju went viral on the Internet.

The story was covered by CNN (see story here) and other mainstream media, but a review of posts on this blog will provide additional detail.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Korea's goals for AI chips


 As reported by the Korea Joongang Daily, Korea plans to be a leader in the manufacture of AI (Artificial Intellingence) chips.  According to the article, "Despite the country's strong position in memory chips and its growing presence in custom non-memory chips, ..... tomorrow belongs to companies that are best at designing and manufacturing high-performance processors, commonly called AI chips."  Furthermore, " AI chips are purposely built to perform very specific calculations as fast as possible. They are distinct from general-purpose processors, which are designed for a wider variety of functions, and are better suited for very specific, predetermined tasks that require impressive calculation capabilities and low energy consumption, such as voice recognition, autonomous driving, the metaverse and the Internet of Things."

The article goes on to note that " The AI chip category is broad and the definition is somewhat flexible. It includes application-specific integrated circuits, graphical processing units (GPU), neural processing units (NPUs), which are similar but more powerful than GPUs, and neuromorphic chips, which are still largely experimental. Introduced in December, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute(ETRI)'s ArtBrain-K is capable of running 5,000 trillion computations per second. The system is powered by ETRI's AB9 high-performance AI chip, which is an NPU that emulates the neural networks of a human brain."

Monday, May 9, 2022

Korea's leadership in next-generation mobile networks

 

As reported by The Korea Times and other local and international media, Korea is continuing its drive to be a global leader in the development of next generation mobile networks.  As noted by the Times, "Samsung Electronics is taking the lead in standardization of sixth-generation (6G) network technology, as the company proposed to start a global study on securing frequencies for the future network technology, which is expected to be commercialized as early as 2028, the company said Sunday.  With the study on the network technology, the Korean tech giant aims to take the lead in the global standardization and establishment of the 6G network. Samsung released the white paper, "6G Spectrum: Expanding the Frontier," that lays out its vision to secure global frequency bands for 6G."

An earlier Samsung white paper, entitled "6G:  The next hyper --connected experience for all" was published in 2020.  To place these documents in a broader context, they represent Samsung's commitment as part of the Moon Jae In administrations Digital New Deal, which in turn is part of the overall Korea New Deal that encompasses a Green New Deal and more.

The Korean government's commitment to building digital networks can be traced to 1980 and is  embodied in the 1980-81 "Long Term Plan to Foster the Electronics Sector."  This is why I have referred in this blog and in academic publications to Korea's "network-centric digital development."

Korea's current leadership in setting global standards for 6G is made possible only because today's ICT-sector leaders stand on the shoulders of giants like Minister Oh Myung, Dr. Kim Jae-Ik and their colleagues in industry, government and academia.  They saw, in the revolutionary 1980s, what we are living through these days in the early 2020s. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Korea's Lead in 5G Speed

 


A new OpenSignal report on 5G progress in the Asia-Pacific region underscores South Korea's global lead in implementing 5G network infrastructure. (click on the graphic for a full size version)  The report includes measures of speed, along with user experience and 5G availability and reach.  As shown in this graphic, Korea leads the region (and therefore probably the world) in average 5G download speed, 5G peak download speed and 5G upload speed.