Friday, October 15, 2010

Why a Book on Digital Development in Korea: Reason 1

Here goes.  The idea occurred to me some time ago and I've decided to act on it.  In a series of posts over the next 4-6 months, I'm going to share with readers of this blog some of the reasons why I teamed up recently with Dr. OH, Myung to write our forthcoming book, Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society Routledge, March 2011.  Let me be clear from the beginning that these posts reflect my own perspective, not necessarily that of my co-author, who has a long and distinguished career in Korea's ICT sector, and has written or spoken publicly on many of these issues.
One of the first reasons for undertaking this book project was quite simple.  There appeared to be no other scholarly book in existence that examined South Korea's ICT development over the past three decades.  Back in the 1990s I had spent more than two years researching and writing The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea (Hong Kong, Oxford University Press, 1995)  Well over a decade had passed since that book was written, years which I spent as an administrator with the Fulbright Commission in Seoul, formally known as the Korean American Educational Commission, with responsibilities for our academic testing (mainly TOEFL) and technology (the web was becoming the principal channel for study abroad advising).  My personal experience of Korea's burgeoning networks and electronics sector convinced me that an update of my book was in order.  So, I contacted editors at Oxford University Press in New York, London and Hong Kong with my idea.  After some weeks of e-mail consultation, they declined to even receive a proposal for a new book, citing the lack of a market for such in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries.  Whether or not there is/was such a market is a topic for another post.
To some extent it is true that the world took note of South Korea's digital development, especially when it emerged with the arrival of the new millenium as the world leader in broadband internet penetration as shown by leading international measures.  It is also true that the ITU published a short monograph entitled Broadband Korea:  Internet Case Study in 2003, the OECD has published voluminous statistics, and the World Bank has paid attention to the Korean experience through its project and series of publications on Korea As a Knowledge Economy.   Ahonen and O'Reilly's book, Digital Korea, which appeared in 2007 is an industry-oriented survey of the Korean experience.
In addition to these efforts, there was a measureable increase in the number of articles appearing in scholarly journals about the Korean experience.  However, given the magnitude of Korea's ICT-fueled development, one might have expected a dozen doctoral dissertations and at least half that many books to appear over the past decade and a half.   The story of why such research was not undertaken and published in English is a complex one involving lack of Korean language and area expertise on the part of Western scholars, coupled with a lack of incentive for leading Korean scholars to publish in English for a world academic audience.
However, I stand by my argument.  One of the first reasons for co-authoring Digital Development in Korea, was that there were no other books available that offered a similar treatment of this important topic!


  1. look forward to reading the new book!

  2. I completely agree with the importance you ascribe to your topic. ICT development is radically impacting society; meanwhile that impact is poorly understood and inadequately appreciated, so I am not surprised at OUP's reaction.