Monday, July 25, 2011

A Nostalgic Note on the Decline of PC Rooms

The Joongang Daily has an interesting article, including the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version), on the declining number of PC bangs (PC Rooms or internet cafes) in South Korea.  As noted in the article,PC bangs enjoyed their heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s. After the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998, many people who lost their jobs opened PC bangs to survive.
Government regulations are thought to be partly behind the decline of PC Bangs.

One new restriction to take effect by the year’s end is the Cinderella law pushed jointly by the culture and family ministries. Under the law, PC bangs cannot offer online games to anyone younger than 16 from midnight to 6 a.m., in the hopes of curbing game addiction among Korean minors.

There is also a regulatory question over whether PC Bangs are allowed to sell cup ramen or green tea to their customers. Jo, a 37-year-old owner of a PC bang in Imun-dong, central Seoul, was recently hit with a fine. He was guilty of pouring boiling water into a customer’s cup ramen, and someone caught him with a camera and filed a report.

“I was told that if customers pour the water themselves, it’s OK. But if I pour the water, I’m guilty,” Jo said. “There are many cases in which owners served green tea, and ended up paying a 500,000 won fine.”
In addition to the regulatory issues raised in the Joongang Daily article, I would simply note the reality of the mobile broadband revolution, ignited in Korea with the arrival of Apple's iPhone in late 2009.  The fact that people can easily use their Android devices, iPhones or tablet computers in coffee shops and public wi-fi hotspots all over the country, has undoubtedly lessened their interest in PC Bangs.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CNN Executive on Mobile News and The Need for Original Content

As noted in a Joongang Daily article today, Tony Maddox, 50, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, based at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, believes that not many people sit in front of the television to watch scheduled news and that is why CNN doesn’t feel threatened by the introduction of social media but “embraces them.”   As readers of this blog may know, I've been interested in television news for a long time.  It was the topic of my doctoral dissertation at Stanford, which later was expanded into my first book, Television's Window on the World, which is still available via many bookstores and can be downloaded free of charge from Google Books.  The book examines ten years of U.S. network television coverage of international affairs back in the pre-CNN, pre-internet era.  My interest in television news continued over the years, and I wrote two Headline Series monographs for the Foreign Policy Association, the latest of which was The Internet and Foreign Policy.
Now, back to the Joongang Daily article based on an interview with CNN's Tony Maddox. Today's consumers, he said, are not going to tie themselves to scheduled TV news. "They want TV news when they want it, on the go."

Maddox explained that as a result of the expanding platform of the Internet and mobile and iPad applications, to meet soaring demand, “more people access CNN content and read, listen and watch stories today than at any point in history.”
Under Maddox’s direction, CNN has been spending “enormous sums of money” since 2007 to add more correspondents to cover the world, which he said was in contrast to other media companies that have been reducing the number of foreign correspondents to cut back on expenses.

This is a move, Maddox said, that CNN has taken to “distinguish itself in the marketplace” in such an era in which everyone can say they are a reporter by having a mobile phone in hand.

The basic points made by Maddox apply not only to news, but to other forms of information as well. Despite the flood of information unleashed by the internet and the rapid spread of mobile devices, people everywhere long for high quality, accurate, trustworthy and credible information.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Push for Browser Dirversity in Korea: Cracks in the Microsoft Monoculture?

An excellent article in The Wall Street Journal today by Evan Ramstad.  Entitled appropriately "At Last:  A Push for Browser Diversity in Korea," it reports on the somewhat amazing effort by the Korean government to wean people off their heavy dependence upon Microsoft's IE6 browser and to encourage use of Firefox, Chrome and other browsers.
As the article notes,South Korea’s major Internet portals and government regulators are trying to pull the country’s Internet users into the 21st century. How? With a campaign to wean South Koreans off a decade-old Microsoft Corp. browser and some related security technology that is way out of date.
The campaign seeks to fix the essential contradiction in South Korea’s technology environment — the government in the late 1990s built amazing broadband infrastructure all over the country, but in 1999 imposed rules that locked users to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and an encryption method that made them vulnerable to hacking and software viruses.
I highly recommend that you read the entire article by Ramstad.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More on the Opening of Korea's Smart Phone Game Market

As noted in an earlier post, the Korean government has decided to open up the market for mobile games, by eliminating required government ratings.  Bloomberg's Business Week has an interesting follow-up article on this development. It included the following description of a game developed in Korea that was not available to iPhone users in Korea until now.
Air Penguin, a game in which players guide an animated penguin across an icy landscape, jumped to near the top of the iPhone gaming charts last spring. Yet until now the game hasn’t been available to iPhone owners in the home country of its creator, Seoul-based Gamevil. That’s because South Korea has long required game makers to submit their products to the government for review of their suitability for various age groups based on factors such as violence and sexual content.
I particularly liked the illustration that accompanied the Business Week article (click to see a full size version).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mobile Internet as the "First Screen" in the Asia Pacific Region

As reported by eMarketer, Asia Pacific consumers view mobile as their first screen. Asia-Pacific is economically diverse, but universally high mobile usage unites the region. Mobile users in Asia-Pacific are increasingly looking at their phones as a first screen, whether to download media, access the internet or communicate with peers—and marketers.
eMarketer estimates over 2.1 billion people in Asia-Pacific will use a mobile phone at least monthly this year, representing over half the population of the region. By the end of 2011, Asia-Pacific will account for 56% of all mobile users in the world. Growth will be steady, with penetration reaching 72.6% by 2015 for a mobile population of nearly 2.9 billion.
eMarketer estimates just under 30% of Asia-Pacific mobile users, or 623.3 million, will log on to the web via mobile at least monthly in 2011. As shown in the accompanying illustration (click to see full size version) mobile internet penetration is expected to rise to 42.1% of mobile users in the region by 2015. And for many of these users, mobile is the first screen for internet access.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Korean IT Firms and the War over Patents

In recent years, Korean firms have registered a large number of patents in the United States. As noted by the Chosun Ilbo  IBM registered the most patents in the U.S. last year with 5,896, and Samsung Electronics rose to No. 2 with 4,551 and LG Electronics ranked ninth with 1,490 patents. Judging by the number of registered patents, Korea is a major force, but the atmosphere is quite different on the frontlines, where Apple, Microsoft, Philips and other global IT companies have launched a patent war against their Korean rivals. They have started using patent and copyright law to protect their smartphone and LED technologies and to pressure Korean IT firms. The main battleground in the patent wars is the smartphone market.
As the Chosun Ilbo points out, U.S. companies virtually control the global market for operating systems, which determine the success or failure of a smartphone. Korean companies have plenty of patents for manufacturing technology, but very few for software.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nexon Positioned for Success in Global Market

For some time, analysts of South Korea's dynamic ICT sector have noted that its success was largely based on the manufacture and export of hardware, prominently including semiconductors, screens, television sets, and mobile handsets.  Korea has been viewed as relatively weak in the production and export of software, content and services.   That situation may be changing, and one reason is the potential of Korea's online games in the global market.
A recent article in TechCrunch uses the Korean company Nexon as an example of Asian innovation in the world of free-to-play games and virtual goods.  The article is well worth reading.  I would only add, as noted in earlier posts, that the world of online games has business implications and future applications that extend far beyond the game industry itself.  These include education and the process of admission to colleges and universities, both areas of interest to our new Asia Center to Advance Educational Exchange (ACAEE).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Television and Media Possibilities for Pyeongchang in 2018

Congratulations Pyeongchang, host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics!  This morning I noticed a spike in traffic to this blog, all because of a short post I did back in March on the central role of television and the media in the modern Olympics.
Now that the 2018 Winter games have been awarded to Pyeongchang, we may well anticipate the sort of television and media coverage the world has never yet seen for the first Winter Olympics in Korea.  By that time, further digital development, media convergence and further ubiquitous networking will have all progressed well beyond their current state.  Visitors to Pyeongchang will likely have their choice of a nice variety of free and paid apps for their smartphones, augmenting the reality of the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the Games themselves.  History buffs will no doubt be able to use their phones or tablets to trace the Korean-war era battles and other history that took place on or near some of the ski slopes and other winter sports venues.
A number of interesting possibilities surround the potential of television and the media to assist North-South reconciliation in Korea, especially given that Pyeongchang is not far from the DMZ, which separates the southern part of Gangwon Province from its northern part, including Korea's fabled Diamond Mountain.
These are just some of the thoughts that occur to me today, after the IOC's decision in Durban, South Africa yesterday.

Korea Eliminates Required Government Ratings of Mobile Games

As reported by Bloomberg, customers in South Korea will soon be able to download Rovio Mobile Ltd.'s best-selling "Angry Birds" on their iPhones. Korea scrapped rules yesterday requiring developers to have mobile games rated by government, said Yi Ki Jeong, a manager at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Seoul. The rule clashed with internal policies at Apple and Google Inc. (GOOG) enough for the companies to shut their mobile-game stores in the country, keeping Rovio and other developers from offering their products in Korea, Yi said. “A new chapter is opening in the Korean smartphone-game market,” said Jang Woo Jin, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co. “With the rule out of the way, we can now expect Apple and Google to throw open games in Korea.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Smart Grid Projections for Asia

One of the obvious ways in which ICT can contribute to green growth is through the installation of a smart grid.   A new estimate suggests that smart grid investment in Asia is expected to reach $171.3 billion by 2017, up from $11.9 billion this year.  As NewNet notes, Korea is seeking to leverage its technology leadership in the IT and communications space to form an advanced smart grid infrastructure within the country, as well as an opportunity to export smart grid technologies around the world..