Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Korean Job-seekers Prefer Google and Apple

Barely a year and a half after the entry of Apple's iPhone into the Korean market, and the ensuing "smart-phone shock," The Korea Herald reports that Korean-job seekers name Google and Apple as the top two companies they'd like to work for. According to the latest survey of 1,428 job seekers by SaraminHR Co., 16.7 percent of the respondents selected Google Korea as the most desired company to work at among foreign firms, citing the company’s corporate culture and work environment. It marked the third year in a row that Google Korea claimed the top spot, according to the operator of the job search Web portal. Apple Korea retained its runner-up position for the second year, winning votes from 10 percent of those surveyed. The respondents said that Apple’s reputation and corporate image are the reasons they want to work for the maker of the iPhone and the iPad. Apple made the list of the top 10 most popular foreign companies for the first time in 2010, following the iPhone’s local debut. The two U.S. tech giants were the only technology firms to make the annual list this year, reflecting their ascent in Korea with its strong acceptance of smartphones.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Korea To Boost Near Field Communication and Pay-by-phone services

Last week, as reported by Reuters and other media, the Korea Communications Commission announced it would require mobile phone vendors to equip all smartphones with near field communication (NFC) technology, which allows wireless data exchanges at short range, letting people pay for goods, store electronic tickets, collect coupons by swiping a cell phone at a checkout or scanning tags on movie posters. So far, only two NFC-enabled handsets have been offered in South Korea -- Samsung's Galaxy S II and Pantech's Vega Racer -- and a lack of standardised settlement checkouts at retailers, and disagreements over fee-sharing structure and controlling customer information have prevented the industry from taking off. The commission said mobile operators and credit card firms had agreed to install or upgrade checkouts with NFC processing technology in retailers, fast food outlets, coffee chains and petrol stations, while card companies were offering discounts to customers using mobile payment services to promote the industry. "Mobile payment technology has been available since early 2000 but it failed to take off for various reasons ... but today's agreement is a small step toward mutual growth going forward," the head of the Korea Communications Commission said in a statement.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Seoul to Boost its Urban Competitiveness with IT

Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, the newly appointed Assistant Mayor of Seoul for IT (AKA the CIO for the City of Seoul) has publicly stated his plans to boost the South Korean capital’s urban competitiveness to the 5th highest level among world cities. Plans to boost Seoul’s urban competitiveness will be created based on the following agenda: 1) A city making the most of smart technologies by extending the use of smart phones, CCTV, smart TV, and WiFi. 2) A city making outstanding use of smart technologies by applying real-time intelligent data and pre-emptive public services. 3) A city with a future-oriented smart urban living system which will address issues of safety, disaster, welfare, transportation, and other civil affairs. 4) A city with a smart economy and culture with focus on IT services, smart business, information security, and global contents. For further details, consult Asia Pacific FutureGov.
For even more background, there is an interesting post by Tim Carmody on FastCompany.  The last half or so of his post gets into the problem cities around the world face in providing free mobile service outside, on the streets and in public places, versus in people's homes.   In that section of his post, I only wish Carmody had mentioned the obvious fact that South Koreans spend a much greater portion of their waking hours outside the home, than do Americans and perhaps people in other cultures.  I think this is quantifiable and helps to explain why the Seoul government is so confident in moving ahead with its ambitious plan.  Also, the density of Seoul's large apartment complexes raises the obvious question of how many of them will be within range of one of the free wireless signals.  Certainly it will be a measurable and significant percentage. Finally, most apartment dwellers in Seoul and other large cities already have fiber to the home (FTTH) to their apartments and many, like me, have spent about $20-25 to purchase a wireless router and install a wireless access point in their apartment.  So, they already have fast wireless internet at home, at no cost other than their basic broadband subscription monthly fee.
In conclusion, I wish Dr. Hwang and his team at City Hall the best of luck. It seems clear that we residents of Seoul have some interesting new services to look forward to!

KT "Gives Wings to WiBro" with Google Chrome Book

Amid all of the industry discussion about LTE, it seems that many have relegated mobile WiMax (a locally developed technology referred to as WiBro here in Korea) to a future market niche, mainly in developing countries around the world.  However, here in Korea, where major mobile service providers have been building out their WiBro networks nationwide, an interesting development has been announced by KT.  According to a major electronics newspaper, Korea Telecom has chosen the Google Chrome Book as the main device for its 4G WiBro Service. “We are planning to launch the Chrome Book in Korea in the latter half of this year and the whole new laptop especially suitable for cloud computing environments will be marketed as a package along with our WiBro router Egg,” said KT, adding, “We are also giving a thought to releasing the Chrome Book having a built-in WiBro communications chip in cooperation with handheld makers.” KT is also mulling over linking the U-Cloud, its own cloud computing service, with the laptop.
Having used WiBro a few years ago on a bus moving along the Han River at over 70 kilometers per hour, I expect that a WiBro equipped Chrome Book might be very popular indeed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The DMZ as Digital Divide: ICT and Communication in Korean Unification

In an earlier post this morning I mused about the implications of cloud computing for international and national security, and suggested that "the growth of cyberspace is emerging as perhaps the single most important factor in, among other things, Korean unification." Shortly after publishing the post, I became aware of some new resources relating to the topic.
First, The Walter Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University earlier this year published a report entitled U.S.-DPRK Educational Exchanges: Assessment and Future Strategy.  Fortunately, the Stanford volume can be downloaded in PDF format, so I encourage you to use the preceding hyperlink to do so and read it.  Unfortunately, the Stanford volume devotes far to little attention to the exceedingly important role of information and communications technology (ICT) in Korean unification.  For evidence of this, readers may wish to read prior posts on this blog about this important topic at this link, or search for "unification" or "DMZ."
A second resource is the web site of The National Committee on North Korea. As noted in its mission statement, it "...advances, promotes and facilitates engagement between citizens of the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It works to reduce tensions and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula and improve the well being of the citizens of the DPRK. Through cooperation on concrete activities addressing specific problems, NCNK seeks to enhance broad-based understanding and mutual trust. NCNK supports transitions enabling the DPRK to become a full participant in the community of nations. The National Committee's principles of engagement focus on addressing urgent humanitarian needs, implementing long-term development, building sustained partnerships, fostering mutual understanding, and helping to avoid conflict on the Korean Peninsula."
Although pleased to see the above new resources, I am disappointed at the lack of a more comprehensive discussion of the role of ICT and communication in Korean unification.  It is such an obvious factor, especially in 2011 with the unfolding "Arab Spring" and international commentary on the role of digital, mobile and social media in it.  Even back in 1995, when my book on The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea was published, it demanded a full chapter (Chapter 9: "Toward One World: Beyond all Barriers": Communications and National Reunification).  Since that time, I have followed the topic mainly through posts on this blog.  Among them, my 2008 post about Johann Galtung's perspective on unification, and in 2009, Andrei Lankov's thoughts on the matter, deserve reading.
In conclusion, I would simply underscore the obvious for further research, theorizing, publication and discussion of the role of ICT and communication in Korean unification.

My Thoughts on the Apple Cloud

Just for the record, my reaction to the announcement of the "Apple Cloud" by Steve Jobs, was to think that his company had conceded defeat in the marketplace to Google, which has led the world in the development of content and services for cloud computing.   Obviously, reporter Kim Yoo-chul of The Korea Times shares this opinion, as reflected in his Reporter's Notebook Piece today.

Thoughts on North Korea, Cloud Computing and Cyber War

Several articles jumped off the computer screen at me this morning as I reviewed my Google alerts and read the morning papers.  One was the Chosun Ilbo article noting that Korea University has established a cyber defense course at its Graduate School of Information Security. It noted that cyber terrorists of the future will need to be even more sophisticated than they are now as South Korea is set to establish its first academic program dedicated to training military officials specializing in countering cyber warfare. The main focus of the program at Korea University will be threats from North Korea, the Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday as it announced the plan.  Coincidentally, The Korea Times carried an opinion article entitled "Defending Cyberspace."  That piece contains some rather sobering, if they are accurate, assessments of the capabilities of North Korean hackers.  I would simply note that South Korea's heavy dependence on Microsoft Windows and the associated security risks are a well documented phenomenon, referred to by many as Korea's "Microsoft monoculture."   Over and above that, the extremely rapid diffusion of smart phones and tablets in the South Korean market is creating a whole new space for potential security threats.
The above articles already had me musing about possibilities when I ran across Roger Strukhoff's blog piece entitled "The Geopolitical Context of Cloud Computing."   The article starts by noting that cloud computing is a global phenomenon and exists within a very serious geopolitical context. The technology is not discrete from government policy, and technology marketers must be exquisitely aware of this. The highest profile example is Google's ongoing sparring with the Chinese government. But in a way, we're all Google and we should understand why. The author makes the following point about the most immediate effect of the information revolution on politics. ...the geopolitical actions of government leaders in Beijing, Washington, and dozens of other national capitals has a direct, immediate effect on the technology industry today. As the onset of World War I demonstrated, a provocative event in the relatively modest outpost of Sarajevo unleashed simmering tensions among the great powers of the age, resulting in tens of millions of deaths in the two wars that followed. Today's geopolitical landscape is at least as fraught with tripwires as that of 1914. In almost 100 years, all of our technology has not made us humans any more peaceful or cooperative. Strukhoff's full piece is worth reading.
I am formulating an argument that the growth of cyberspace is emerging as perhaps the single most important factor in, among other things, Korean unification.   Comments welcome and you can watch for more on this topic in future poses.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Massive Multiplayer Online Games in Korea

South Korea was the first nation in the world where massive multiplayer online games (MMOG) became wildly popular, and the reason is fairly simple and straightforward.   South Korea built fast nationwide fiber-based broadband networks years before most other countries.  The point has been made over and over in this blog and in my new book with Dr. Oh Myung, Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society (Routledge, 2011).  In the U.S., a 1994 by Vice-President Al Gore in which he argued for the need to build information superhighways, was heeded by South Korea, which implemented an ambitious Korea Information Infrastructure (KII) plan the following year.
The building of South Korea's broadband infrastructure and the spread of PC Bangs (Rooms) were necessary but not sufficient conditions for online games to thrive.  Today I ran across a very interesting post on the Massively blog about the origins of Lineage, a MMOG with which NCSoft struck gold years ago in Korea.  It is well worth reading.  It says in part:

So let's back up the memory truck to September 1998, when a then-fledgling NCsoft rolled out a Diablo-esque isometric MMO and struck virtual gold in South Korea. At the time, gaming rooms were becoming a huge thing in the country; a recession had hit (giving people a lot of time with nothing to do), and the government was rapidly expanding the broadband network. In the face of this perfect storm, titles like StarCraft and Lineage became overnight household fixtures -- and the country hasn't looked back.

What makes this post even more interesting to me is that the offices of our new Asia Center to Advance Educational Exchange are located just down Teheran-ro from the corporate headquarters of NCSoft.  Also, I've just read  the excellent book by Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Read, Total Engagement:  Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete.  I will definitely need to pay them a visit!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

North Korean Defectors to Visit U.S. on Government-sponsored WEST program

Yonhap reports that a group of five North Korean defectors currently enrolled in South Korean colleges will visit the United States on a US government-sponsored programme reserved, until now, for South Korean students only, a government official said today.The five North Korean defectors will likely head for the United States next month, according to the official from Seoul's Unification Ministry."The US Embassy in South Korea and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology selected the five students in April for the West programme," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.Under the student exchange program, South Korean students can visit the United States for up to 18 months -- five months of mandatory language programmes plus internships up to one year long at US companies, followed by one month reserved for free travels.Thousands of students have visited or are visiting the United States under the programme since its launch in early 2009, but no one originally from North Korea had been offered the chance until now. "We believe the programme will help North Korean defectors get wider experience and better prepare for their future employment," the ministry official said."The ministry will consider extending the programme to more North Korean defectors," he said, adding there are currently about 850 college students here who defected from North Korea.