Sunday, August 31, 2008

Korean IT Firms Benefit from the Won's Decline

Korea's leading IT exporters are benefiting from the recent decline in the value of the Korean Won.  According to an article in today's Korea Times, the Won this week fell to as low as 1,062.6 per dollar, the weakest since December 2004.  A source at Samsung Electronics estimated that "if the exchange rate drops 10 won, we expect won-denominated sales to rise 300 billion won."  Exports account for 80 percent of Samsung's sales. In the second quarter, the electronics giant reaped an additional 300 billion won in sales thanks to the weakening won, sources say. LG Electronics benefits in a similar fashion.  "When the won-dollar rate drops 10 won, then we expect to gain some 70 billion in won-denominated sales," an LG spokesman said. 
However, the changing value of the won is a double-edged sword.  South Korea's airlines, steel makers and oil refiners, are suffering from the weaker won in the wake of surging prices for imported raw materials.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kenichi Ohmae on Dodkdo 독도는한국땅 입니다!!

I read with great interest in yesterday's Chosun Ilbo English edition that Kenichi Ohmae, Japan's well-known management expert and futurologist suggests Japan should recognize Korea's effective control of Dokdo. In a Japanese weekly publication, Omae said no nation which failed to occupy territory effectively has obtained it through dialogue between parties concerned or UN arbitration. Everybody knows that a war, the only means possible, is not suitable as a way to solve the Dokdo issue. For a moment, I thought that this was going to be an enlightened statement on the issue by a well-known person from Japan. Then I read that Ohmae had stressed Japan should "continue claim" over the islets, while recognizing Korea's effective occupation, but without criticizing or irritating Korea. He further suggested that, in the future it was necessary “to expand the East Asian economic sphere by skillfully pulling China and Korea into it." Japan, he wrote, "should build a hypothetical great power in the future, when the meaning of national territories will become blurred." What this amounts to, in part, is that Ohmae is suggesting Japan can lay claim to Dokdo in cyberspace. What else will Japan lay claim to in the future? What about the future of history? In one sense the information age may blur the meaning of national territories or boundaries, but at the same time it will offer an opportunity to preserve and protect the memories and history of what actually happened over the past several centuries and more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

South Korea Ranks 3rd Among OECD Countries in "Readiness for Globalization"

Ready for Globalization?  Global Benchmark Report 2008 is the fourth in a series of reports giving the Danish Confederation of Industry's annual assessment of the development in the business environment and the performance of the individual OECD member countries.  I must admit that I was somewhat surprised that South Korea, overall, ranked third among the countries studied.  The report includes 84 international benchmarks and provides a picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the OECD countries in the global economy.   On balance it is quite a laudable accomplishment for The Republic of Korea and a closer look at the report is quite revealing.  The report compares the performances of 29 OECD countries and their business environments.
The comparison is based on 84 indicators divided into six main sections as indicated in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full-size version of the graphic).  Across all of the benchmarks, South Korea had more top-3 rankings than all other countries, except for Switzerland and Iceland.  This is shown in the second graphic to the left.  One can read through the entire report to get a sense of where Korea ranked high and where it was low.   It ranked high on measures of growth and development, but low, for example on labour productivity.  Korea came out number one among the 29 countries in the benchmark of knowledge and competence, based on average rankings using 23 separate indicators. This is shown in the third accompanying graphic.   As the report explains, The strengths of South Korea include a large share of youth completing a secondary degree, a large share of students in science and engineering and a high patent productivity.  One interesting measure shows that South Korea led all OECD countries in the share of 25-34 year olds with an upper secondary education as of 2005.  It ranked number three in the share of 25-34 year olds with a tertiary education.
And, it ranked second to the United States in terms of expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.  Notably, South Korea ranked in the bottom five in terms of Labor Regulations as of 2007.  The assumption of the report being that a low degree of labor regulation helps business adapt to changes.  Not surprisingly, it ranked at or near the top in measures of broadband and internet use.  Finally, it is of interest to note that South Korea ranked last on the measure of "Cultural Openness" as shown in the final graphic below, and next-to-last on a measure of "Discrimination Towards Race, Gender, Etc." in 2007.   There is much more in the full report, which can be downloaded as a pdf file using the link at the start of this post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Google Translate Tool Added to This Blog

For the convenience of many Koreans who view this site, and other visitors from around the globe, I've added the Google Translate tool in the right-hand navigation area. Just choose 한국어 or another language from the pop-up menu and the page will automatically be translated for you. As you all know, machine translation is far from perfect and has a long way to go. However, it seems to be improving, and it offers a useful starting point for translating any of these posts into Korean. I hope you enjoy using this service and would appreciate any comments.

Monday, August 25, 2008

China Biggest Threat to Korean Intellectual Property

In a prior post dealing with Korea, Patents, Shift in Innovation Hubs I noted South Korea's growing interest in its own intellectual property.  Now, an article in this morning's Chosun Ilbo notes that China is the biggest threat to Korean intellectual property.  A survey was conducted by Gallup Korea for the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) on the overseas intellectual property cases of 1,202 domestic firms. Some 65 percent of all cases happened in China, and 12 percent each in Taiwan and in the United States. By sector, 24 percent of breaches happened in electrics and electronics, 22 percent in machinery and 21 percent in textile and clothing.  A KIPO official noted that “While the number of intellectual property infringement cases of Korean products is decreasing in other countries, it is rising in China."

Russians Dent Google's World Domination? I Doubt It

An article in the Sunday Times declares that the Russians have dented Google's world domination with their search engine Yandex.  According to the article, Russia is one of only four countries where the American search giant fares considerably worse than local services – alongside China, where the internet is controlled by the government, South Korea and the Czech Republic. To “Google it” may be the common way of searching in much of the world but in Russia Yandex holds 55% of the market compared with Google’s 21%.   I haven't checked on the Czech Republic, but suspect that the situation there is similar to that in China, and Korea.   Korea's Naver, provides only Korean language search results and its most popular feature is "Knowledge In," a database service where answers to questions in Korean are answered by other Koreans.  Naver does not actually search the internet.  Neither does Baidu in China or Yandex in Russia.  Read the following description from Yandex's own English language website.
"We operate Russia’s largest internet search engine and are a leading Russian internet and technology company. Our goal is to provide easy access to the wealth of information available online to answer any questions our Russian-speaking users may have. We rely on our in-depth understanding of the Russian language, culture and internet market to provide our users with sophisticated web search and information retrieval services."  In short, Naver, like Baidu and Yandex, do not challenge Google's World Domination because they do not even claim to search the internet.  More on the search issue in later posts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Other Side of the Information Revolution Coin: Korea's Farm Population Drops

On my weekend trips to Kangwon-do, my wife and I enjoy watching the farmers do their work as the seasons change. The report in today's  Korea Times, about the continued decline of South Korea's farming population caught my eye.  The number of Koreans working in the agricultural and fisheries sectors has declined by one-third over the past 25 years as people in rural areas moved to cities for higher income and a better life. According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) Wednesday, the number of farmers and fishermen stood at 3.4 million in 2005, accounting for 7.3 percent of the total population. It marks a sharp decrease from 10.8 million in 1980 when almost one out of three Koreans were engaged in the sector. The article also notes that the agricultural and fisheries industries accounted for 3.3 percent of Korea's gross domestic product (GDP), substantially lower than manufacturing's 28.4 percent and the service sector's 67.8 percent, according to the statistical office.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

World Attention in the Information Age: Korea's National Image

In 1941 Harold Laswell, one of the social scientists whose work led to the creation of communication research as a field of study, wrote a thought-provoking article titled "World Attention Survey." Laswell's research tried to map attention patterns around the world by analyzing the content of newspapers, in particular the countries and issues mentioned in newspaper articles. My first book, Television's Window on the World, was based on my doctoral dissertation and attempted to do something similar with U.S. network television in the 1970s. Today, thanks to the internet and some new Google services, it is possible to do a "World Attention Survey," with much less manual effort than when Laswell was conducting his research or when I laboriously, with the help of research assistants, hand-coded television content for analysis in my dissertation. To illustrate the possibilities, I will show in this post how Google Insight, its brand-new service, can be used to shed empirical light on the question of Korea's national or brand image. In an earlier post, I showed how searches of Google News could be used to help analyze Korea's national image. Google Insight provides an important new piece of the puzzle about national image because it shows patterns of search activity on the internet by people around the world. If you doubt this, take a look at the results of the following global, unfiltered set of searches on Google Insights for Search. Just click on the links to see the results of worldwide search activity, from 2004 to the present, for each of the following terms. If you took time to look at each of the results pages by clicking on each of the four links above and scrolling through the results page, you'll agree with me that several definite patterns show up.
  • First, searches for Korea tend to turn up news of North Korea's nuclear test and related political problems. Not surprisingly, the topics covered by the 4,000 plus media sources in Google News and the search patterns shown by Insights for Search, tend to be highly correlated. Mainstream media coverage and global search patterns are both part of "World Attention" in this information era.
  • Second, searches for Samsung and LG tend to center around information and communication technologies, notably television sets and mobile phones.
  • Third, searches for Hyundai make it clear that Hyundai is viewed around the world as an automobile manufacturer, first and foremost.
  • Fourth, the results for regional distribution of search behavior around the world show clearly that Korea's corporations have effectively established a presence in developing countries as well as those of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
These preliminary observations are based on a simple, unfiltered search for several terms. Obviously, much more could be learned by comparing search patterns across different countries or regions. However, I do think the results are intriguing. I assume that a majority of Google searchers around the world may NOT be aware that Samsung, Hyundai and LG are Korean companies, so that complicates the question of their contribution to Korea's national image. It also seems that the major mainstream media and their consistent focus on political problems or crises--currently North Korea's nuclear progam and the six-party talks--form a part of South Korea's image. This part of the image, however negative it may be, will be hard to escape short of reconciliation and eventually reunification on the Korean peninsula.

Korea a World Leader in Credit Cards, ATMs Per Capita

The use of a bank card, credit card or debit card to conduct transactions at an ATM is a very common experience for anyone living in Korea these days.  Koreans have more credit and debit cards per person than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States, according to Bank of Korea data yesterday.  And, as shown in the accompanying graphic from an article in the Joongang Ilbo, it has more Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) per capita than any other nation in the world.  Among 14 countries surveyed, Korea ranked second lowest in terms of the portion of an individual's assets held in either cash reserves or demand deposits. (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version)

Cyworld and Social Networking in South Korea

The Plus 8 Star website, Benjamin Joffe, CEO, has some very useful reports on social networking in Asia, including a report on Cyworld, South Korea's leading social networking site.  A report, Inside Cyworld:  Best Practices from South Korea's Leading Online Community, provides a nice overview of social networking in South Korea.  The report notes that the internet in South Korea is dominated by three major portals:  Naver, (Cyworld) and Daum.  Yahoo Korea is the only foreign-owned website in the top fifteen. As shown in the accompanying graphic, seven of the top 15 Internet sites by traffic, are general portals and four are online game sites. (click on the graphic to see a full size version)

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Korea Connected" Documentary on Arirang Televison

Those of you interested in getting a taste of what is meant by the ubiquitous network environment being created in South Korea may want to view this half-hour documentary, entitled "Korea Connected."  It was first broadcast by Arirang Television this past June.  The link above will take you to the Arirang TV page that carries the documentary. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Slow Light to Speed up the Internet?

I hadn't planned another post on the importance of speed for the internet, but ran across a fascinating article from the BBC (click here to read the full article).  Researchers in Britain and the United States say that a huge increase in the speed of the internet could be produced by slowing parts of it down.  The major limiting factor on the internet's speed comes about not from transporting information, but in routing it to its various destinations. Metamaterials could replace the bulky and slow electronics that do the routing, paving the way for lightning fast web speeds. As noted by Dr. Chris Stevens from the department of engineering sciences at the University of Oxford,  the current system ". . . limits the speed of the whole process to the speed of your electronics.  The light and the fibres can quite cheerfully sustain a couple of terahertz, but your electronics can't do more than a few gigahertz."  Using metamaterials to build a completely optical internet may help to get around this problem.  

Speed Matters: The U.S. Lags in Internet Download Speed

It is not only in Olympic swimming events or track that speed is important.  The new 2008 report, "Speed Matters," a project of the Communication Workers of America, quantifies just how much the United States lags behind other nations in the speed of its broadband internet infrastructure.  The full report is available for download at the organization's website, This second annual survey of internet speeds in each of the fifty states shows, not surprisingly, that the United States continues to lag behind other countries in the world.  The median download speed for the nation was 2.3 megabits per second (mbps). In Japan, the median download speed is 63 mbps, or 30 times faster than the U.S. The U.S. also trails South Korea at 49 mbps, Finland at 21 mbps, France at 17 mbps, and Canada at 7.6 mbps.
The median upload speed from the test was just 435 kilobits per second (kbps), far too slow for patient monitoring or to transmit large files such as medical records.  The report also notes that about 15 percent of Americans still connect to the internet via a dial-up connection, something that has been virtually nonexistent for years now in South Korea.   It is worth noting that the debate over the importance of high speed, broadband internet was concluded years ago in South Korea.  People here are already enjoying many of the benefits that high speed internet connections bring and, if anything, the Korean populace seems to look forward to even higher speeds in the near future.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Speed in Mobile Broadband Solutions

I've commented on the importance of speed in internet connections in several prior posts. Now Jeff Orr, a leading industry analyst of mobile broadband, has created an elegant chart that visually portrays the relative speed of different mobile broadband solutions. (Click on the chart to see the full-size image.) In comments introducing the chart, Orr notes that "As more mobile broadband networks are launched and accessible to a greater potential market of users, a common question I receive is how these protocols compare in speed. This first chart shows multiple contemporary protocols and their maximum claimed data rates." Both his comments and the chart are right on target.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

One of My Favorite Korean Songs 김종환 - 사랑을 위하여

Korea has many good artists and some wonderful songs.  This is one of them.

김종환 - 사랑을 위하여

Friday, August 8, 2008

Why Google Must Succeed in Korea, for Korea's Benefit

I have read umpteen articles in recent months that note Google's lack of success in penetrating the South Korean search market.  As shown by the accompanying graphic, Korea and China are two stunning examples of markets in which Google is struggling.   Many of the recent media reports extoll the virtues of Korea's own search engines, especially Naver, with its "Knowledge-in" feature that is so popular here.  The clear implication is that Google's streamlined web pages, that return clean, well organized search results, are somehow inferior to the wealth of organized information returned by a Naver search.  In an effort to achieve some clarity here as to what is happening with "search" in the Korean market, consider the following:
  • Naver returns only Korean-language results, coming from its own databases, rather than crawling the internet as googlebots do.
  • Whereas Naver is a Korean networking site where you can search for answers to your questions in Korean, it does not even claim to search the vast non-Korean parts of the Internet.  Google has a more ambitious goal, to explore the whole internet, including all of its languages. 
  • The preceding realities mean that search results in Google will typically be far more complete and comprehensive than those in Naver or similar Korean search engines.
  • In addition to the scope or comprehensiveness of a search, there is the question of sponsorship bias, or the role of money. Google provides search results that help you find information about the topic of your interest, while Naver will tell you everything that sponsors want you to know and have paid for you to know about that topic. 
If you are skeptical about the last bullet point, take any search topic, open two tabs in your browser, and do a search for the term using both English and 하국말 as you please.  Earlier this afternoon, I did side-by-side Naver and Google searches using the term "Community College" in English and  "커뮤니티컬리지" in Korean.  The results are very revealing.  For an interesting blog posting related to this topic, see the Waiguoren's Weblog posting from September 2007.
Because the leading Korean search engine, Naver, has limited its search offerings to the Korean language, it is "searching" and building only a small part of global cyberspace.  While I agree that Korea and Korean language searching are very important, they should not be presented to Korean netizens as the ultimate solution to search.   In a sense, because of the realities mentioned above, the success of Google in Korea is an important measure of globalization and mindset here.  After all, why should Google not do well in Korea?  Google Korea is a Korean company, hiring Korean employees, and contributing directly to this economy.  Furthermore, its corporate goals seem to very compatible with some of Korea's central aspirations.  Ultimately, for Korea to succeed in the information age, it will need to be fully and seriously engaged in the internet search market, not narrowly focused on Korean-language-only social networking.  The success, even if moderate, of Google Korea, can be a great help to this country in achieving its economic goals.  The failure of Google Korea, in the absence of a better search algorithym and method, will not bode well for this nation.  There is a great deal more to be said on this topic.  More later.  In the meantime, I'd like to hear what the rest of you think.

The Internet Comes to North Korea!

According to the Chosun Ilbo and other media sources, North Korea will finally join the world wide web and provide internet service from next year.  Kim Sang-myung, the chief of the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, a group of former North Korean professionals, at a symposium in the National Assembly on Wednesday said, "According to the Internet Access Roadmap it launched in 2002, North Korea will begin providing Internet service for special agencies and authorized individuals as early as next year."   According to The Daily NK website, "Kim Sang Myung is an IT expert from North Korea who escaped from the country in 2004, while he was a Computer Science professor in the Engineering department of Kongsang University. He now works as a professor at Kyonggi University in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea."

The Chosun Ilbo article continues, "Implementation of the roadmap, which major agencies such as the Workers' Party, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Electronic Industry, and the North Korea Academy of Sciences have pushed for under the instructions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il since 2002, is now at its final stage, he said. First of all, North Korea will establish infrastructure for a super-speed Internet service network by laying optical cables between Pyongyang and Hamhung and extending them to Chongjin and Shinuiju this year. North Korea has recently succeeded in consolidating security solutions for the prevention of online leaks of data to foreign countries and of online intrusions, and in enhancing service stability. "  Kim Sang Myung is quoted as saying the following about North Korea's decision to proceed with development of the internet. "North Korea is strongly determined to be part of the global community through the Internet. After watching China and Vietnam control the Internet effectively although these countries have opened up Internet wireless networks since the early days of their opening, the North has concluded that it can now introduce the Internet service."

Leakage of Private Information a Major Problem

According to an article in the Korea Times, the unauthorized leaking of private information continues to be a major problem in South Korea. According to a member of the ruling Grand National Party, ".. unauthorized officials at public firms had searched and even leaked sensitive private information on numerous citizens.
He said officials at the National Health Insurance Corp. had inspected more than 12,000 citizens' private information such as home address, annual income and health conditions between 2002 and May this year, adding such illegalities have been rampant at the National Pension Service as well. Among the victims are famous entertainers and politicians including Bae Yong-joon, Kim Tae-hee and even President Lee Myung-bak. Males searched the data to check whether their girl friends had an abortion. Employees collected home addresses to dole out wedding invitation cards. Some workers sold a pile of such information to private financial companies." "A recent Korea Information Security Agency (KISA) report showed that of 700 public offices' Web sites, 54.1 percent or 379 were highly vulnerable to leaks. The report stated KISA collected more than 67,000 social security numbers through the Internet homepages." The social security numbers referred to in the Korea Times article are actually national citizen's ID numbers, the rough Korean equivalent of a U.S. social security number, but arguably even more personal and confidential than a social security number. The Korea Times article also notes that the government is updating regulations to prevent private information leakage on public institutes' Web sites. It also plans to spend $700 million to install anti-hacking tools on them. A new law will mandate every public and private organization handling private information to encode subscribers' information such as bank accounts, social security (citizen's national ID) numbers, IDs and passwords. The web site of Korea Information Security Agency (KISA) is a useful source of information regarding all aspects of internet security, including SPAM, identity theft, electronic certificates and privacy issues. Unfortunately, the English side of the web site has not been updated, for the most part, since 2006. However, it is still worth a visit.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Google Korea and the Future of Search in Korea

The dominance of Naver, Daum and Empas in the South Korean search market, along with the failure thusfar of Google to garner much market share here, has caught the attention of internet-industry watchers around the world. It is illustrated by the accompanying graphic generated by a search of Google Trends (click on graphic to see a full-size version).  How can it be, many analysts note, that  Google is struggling in the nation with the world's most advanced broadband internet infrastructure?  The answer is largely to be found in language and culture.   Naver is less a search engine than a social-networking internet portal.   It doesn't search the internet.  Instead, it relies on a growing database of Korean-language only material in order to answer queries by Koreans.  As a Korean colleague with considerable internet industry experience told me, "when Koreans search on Naver, they simply want to know what other Koreans are thinking."   Or perhaps they simply want an answer in their own language, and Naver is extremely successful in providing such information.  This explains why its "Knowledge-in" feature is one of the most popular parts of the site.
In broader, more global terms, the very strength of Naver is probably its weakness.  Because it was built by Koreans, for Koreans and in the Korean language, it serves them extraordinarily well for certain purposes.   However, for the same reason, it probably will not do as well in North America, Europe and other international markets.  Also, even for certain purposes here in Korea, Google is superior to Naver.  One example that comes to mind is the many students and parents who are looking for information about study abroad in English speaking countries.  In most instances, they will find more up-to-date information, in both English and Korean, by using Google as their primary search tool.  They will also avoid the pitfall of being overly influenced by "sponsored links" and the web promotion of private study-abroad agencies who pay to sponsor those links.  So, for the benefit of Koreans themselves as well as the future integration of Korea into global cyberspace, we should all hope that Google succeeds here, at least moderately.  More on this topic in future posts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Portable Internet: What's With WiBro?

The Korea Times chose an interesting headline for an article today about the prospects for Korea's homegrown portable internet technology, WiBro, as it is known domestically, and Mobile Wimax internationally.  "Will WiBro Sizzle or Fizzle?"  Although this may appear brash, I'm going to predict that, in the long run, WiBro or something very much like it will sizzle.  Furthermore, there appears to be no serious downside to the efforts of Samsung and other Korean companies to push for international approval of a mobile internet standard that originated here. 
At this moment in South Korea's rapid evolution toward the ubiquitous network society, it is a safe statement that there are two desireable characteristics of the future media environment:
  • It will provide broadband internet access via mobile handsets, PCs and a variety of other devices.  The term broadband internet, as used here, means speed, as in access speeds currently available in Korea, Japan and a handful of other countries.
  • To the extent possible, it will be cordless or mobile
As things currently stand, the only reason most people would want to plug in a cord or a network cable in order to access the internet, is to achieve an adequately fast connection.   WiBro, aka Mobile Wimax will succeed because it offers both speed and mobility.   Perhaps we're getting ahead of the story here.  There are other countries and companies in the world that may be pushing for their own versions of the "portable internet," as WiBro appropriately dubs itself.  The most notable of these is LTE, which is still several years off.
WiBro has an informative English language web site.  It contains links to several other sites that may be useful for those closely following the development of these technologies, approval of international standards, and related issues.   One is the Wimax Forum.   Another is the Telecommunications Technology Association.   Also of considerable interest is Intel's view of technologies that will enable the portable internet.  

Korea to Strengthen Online Etiquette Education

Officials from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have announced plans to strengthen online etiquette education in South Korea’s grade schools. Currently students receive instruction on internet ethics beginning in the fourth grade. Starting next year, such instruction will be given in the second and third grades. According to the Donga Ilbo, “Twenty-two pages on Web etiquette will be included in ethics textbooks and supplementary teaching material. The chapter “My Friend, the Computer” will cover prevention of overuse and addiction to the Internet, and teach students to use polite words on the Web. The ethics textbook for fourth graders to come out in 2010 will have 20 pages on Internet etiquette. That for fifth graders to be introduced in 2011 will also contain 20 pages on preventing Web addiction.”

Monday, August 4, 2008

Will Convergence Lead to Free Voice Telephony?

In South Korea, internet telephony is poised for explosive growth over the next five years. As anyone who has experienced the convenience and economy of a service like Skype will already know, consumers are likely to go for internet telephony in droves. An article in today's Korea Times points out that the Korean government is expected to adopt number portability as early as next month. That policy will allow telephone subscribers to switch to cheaper VoIP services without changing their numbers and offer new possibilities for companies like Hanarotelecom, which has been struggling to strengthen its share in the saturated fixed-line market. Although Internet protocol television (IPTV), has been getting more attention in the Korean media, some analysts believe that VoIP offerings could make more of a difference in the competition between bundled services. The Korea Times article notes that "The local VoIP market was valued at about 255.2 billion won (about $251 million) last year, according to an estimate by IDC Korea, but forecasted to show an annual growth of about 53 percent for the next five years." With the introduction of VoIP and IPTV services in Korea, the major providers are planning to bundle services and offer steep discounts. Some are expected to offer free calls between subscribers to their VoIP service. However, the article reports that KT is not planning to do so, "... fearing a massive drop in average revenue per user (ARPU)." In fact, market pressures may force KT to offer free calling sooner rather than later. South Korea seems certain to be one of the first markets in the world to test the viability of something many analysts have predicted: free voice telephony.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Korea's Beef Infodemic and Cyber Defamation Law

The international news agency Reuters took note today of a subject treated in several of my earlier posts on the Korean "Beef Infodemic." The Reuters headline cast the subject as "Bruised South Korean government takes on infodemics." The lead sentence in the Reuters report says that "South Korea's unpopular young government is having second thoughts about the benefits of running the world's most wired society."   Not a bad lead, except for the fact that much of Korea's networking these days is wireless, and is aiming to become "ubiquitous."  South Korean government efforts to deal with media convergence are one factor that has led to a full fledged debate here about the role of the traditional print media powerhouses here and the nation's leading internet portals.  The Justice Ministry is working on what it calls a Cyber Defamation Law. "The reality is that we lack the means to effectively deal with harmful Internet messages," a ministry official said.  The Korean Communications Commission, which regulates the industry, has come up with its own rules to oblige portals to suspend sites stepping outside the limits and force Websites to use real names of anyone posting comments. The commission says the measures are designed to improve security and reduce the spread of false information.  Predictably, voices are rising that the government moves are attempts to erode freedom in a country that has had only two decades of democratic elections.
"The regulations violate the autonomy of the Internet and are an effective tool for tighter media control by the government," said Lee Han-ki, senior editor at the popular citizen news Website OhMyNews.  For a better overall picture, read the complete Reuters report.

Dokdo and Cyber Diplomacy: YouTube Exchanges

While the real-world political war over Dokdo may be entering into a lull of sorts, the exchanges taking place over YouTube have picked up pace.    The following is an interesting version of Arirang as commentary on Dokdo.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More on Dokdo and Cyber Diplomacy 독도는 한국땅 이라!

George W. Bush made one of the smartest moves of his presidency by clearly siding with Korea on the matter of Dokdo. In an important sense, he had no choice. History is also on the side of Korea. An interesting part of South Korea's diplomatic offensive in cyber-space can be seen on YouTube. Many Koreans and others who support Korea's case have posted videos. I really liked the following song and video by 박명수. It is worth your time to view it, even if you don't understand all of the Korean lyrics. After all Dokdo is Korean land!

Korea Part of a "Marked Shift in Innovation Hubs" Worldwide

Increased patent filings in North East Asian countries (mainly China and the Republic of Korea (ROK)) and the United States of America (USA) drove growth in worldwide filing of patent applications, which topped 1.76 million in 2006, representing a 4.9% increase over 2005, according to the 2008 edition of the World Patent Report of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Director General of WIPO, Dr. Kamil Idris, observed “A major increase in innovative activity in China, the Republic of Korea and the United States has driven the overall growth of patent filings in 2006. This reflects a consolidation of earlier trends which demonstrate a marked shift in innovation hubs around the world.” He further added “While use of the patent system remains highly concentrated among a group of countries, statistics show an increasing level of patent activity in emerging countries. This is an encouraging trend,” he added. While statistics from the World Patent Report reveal patterns of concentration in patent activity, they also point to a growing tendency for applicants to file their applications in multiple countries. This trend towards increasing internationalization of patent activity is demonstrated by the growth in international filings through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and in non-resident patent filings. The period 2000-2006, saw a significant increase in the number of filings originating from Australia, China, India and the ROK. The average annual growth rate in patent filings for these countries was far above that of all reported countries in Europe and North America. Japan, the United Kingdom and Sweden experienced modest growth in patent filings (less than 1% a year). In 2005 (the latest year for which technology data are available), the most intense patenting activity is evident in the following sectors: computer technology (144,594), telecommunications (116,770), and electrical machinery (121,350) technologies. Between 2001 and 2005, patent filings in computer technology, optics, and semiconductors grew by 5.3%, 5.0% and 4.9%, a year, respectively. There was a modest increase in pharmaceuticals filings (1.7%) and a decrease in biotechnology filings (-2.7%).