Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Korea's world-leading smartphone penetration

As reported by The Korea Herald and other media, South Korea leads the world in smartphone penetration, and by quite a margin.   (click on the graphic to see a full size version).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Digital dementia on the rise in Korea

One of the several negative side effects of having the world's most extensive and fastest networks, along with extremely high usage rates of those networks, is internet addiction.   With the mobile revolution and the arrival of the iPhone, this evolved into smartphone addiction.  Today The Joongang Daily carried a lengthy article on a related malady, digital dementia.  The following excerpt from the article, which is well worth reading, suggests the nature of the problem.

"Internet addiction was recognized as a problem in both adults and young people as early as the late 1990s. Now Korea is discovering a scourge called “digital dementia” - the kind of early onset dementia, or deterioration of cognitive abilities, that usually only comes about following a head injury or psychiatric illness.

Korean doctors are finding a growing number of cases of memory problems, attention disorders and emotional flattening among kids and teens spending too much time web searching, texting and using multimedia.

They think young people are at particular risk because their brains are still developing.

“Overuse of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain,” says Byun Gi-won, a medical doctor who runs the Balance Brain Center in southern Seoul, which helps people with cognitive problems related to computers and smartphones."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Smart cities in Korea

Rapid urbanization means that the development of so-called "smart cities," is a high priority all around the world, and Korea is no exception.  Earlier this Spring, I served on the international jury for the Intelligent Community Forum, based in New York, which this year named Taichung City, Taiwan as its 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year.
Coincidentally, I had lunch earlier this month with the outgoing Assistant Mayor and CIO of the city of Seoul, Dr. Hwang Jong-sung.  He is the co-author, with Han Choe of the ITU's technology watch report entitled Smart Cities Seoul: A Case Study, published by the ITU in February of this year. It is the most complete case study of a Korean "smart city" to date and makes interesting reading.  (It can be downloaded  in PDF format from the ITU page or read online here via Scribd.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The issue of Naver's market dominance in Korea

Earlier this Spring, the local press reported that Naver would be one of the companies targeted by the Park Geun-hye government in its campaign for "economic democratization."  Today the Joongang Daily carried another lengthy article dealing with Naver's dominance in the search market, both for desktop PCs and mobile devices.  (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full-size version)  The article quotes representatives of several small start-up companies and basically argues that Naver is stifling economic creativity.
I think it is clear that a large majority of Koreans presently prefer Naver's Korean language services.  Like Americans and people in most other countries of the world who use Google, the Korean public also prefers to find information quickly and efficiently, which contributes to their use of a single source, Naver, and its market dominance.
What I think is missing from the Joongang Daily analysis is the global context.   Naver, for all its strengths in serving the Korean-language public here on the peninsula and around the globe, is a "walled garden" that effectively ignores the majority of internet content which appears in English and other languages (on this topic see my earlier posts). (or here, or use the search box in the right hand column and search for "Naver")

Perspectives on speed and LTE in Korea

As regular, even semi-regular, readers of this blog know, I've long been interested in the world-leading status and steadily increasing speed of South Korea's digital networks. Koreans themselves seldom question the need for ever faster networks, the significance of which seems to be second nature to most citizens in this country, who are justifiably proud of their nation's status as an "IT powerhouse."
Technically, the speed of digital networks relates to such matters as the processing speed of semiconductors in the routers that connect the network and the bandwidth of both mobile and fixed networks.  There are a number of ways too look at and measure internet speed.   For a number of years now, Akamai's regular "State of the Internet" reports have shown that South Korea has the highest average internet download speed in the world.  In the latest such report, for the fourth quarter of 2012, South Korea continued its lead, with an average download speec of 14.0 Mbps, ahead of Japan with an average of 10.8 Mbps, and Hong Kong, which ranged third at 9.3 Mbps.
Another indication of speed is the extremely rapid adoption of LTE in South Korea, as shown in the accompanying graphic by Telegeography (click on the graphic to see a full-size version.  Korea's three mobile service providers have all built nationwide LTE networks and have introduced service at a rate faster than any other country in the world.  This has even led to some criticism that the adoption of LTE in Korea has been too fast, possibly cutting into profits that could have been earned from 3G services.
Various measures can be used to represent trends in the adoption and use of new mobile communication technologies, including the number of subscribers, the number of users per 100 population and so forth.   For this post, I've assembled a graphic from the latest report on mobile data traffic trends published by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (Korean language).  This graphic illustrates the dramatic increase in actual use of data (content) by Korean consumers (click on the graphic to see a full-size version).  As such, it shows that the generation of Korean language content and services seems to be keeping pace with which consumers are acquiring new LTE smartphones.
Note several features of this graph.  First, adoption of Korea's homegrown WiBro (mobile WiMax) 4G technology has remained relatively stable since January of 2012.  Second, levels of 2G usage are so small that the data does not even appear in this graphic.  For all practical purposes, 2G has been discontinued in South Korea.  Third, there is a slow but steady decline in use of 3G mobile devices for data transmission.   Finally, of
course, the dramatic growth of LTE is shown in the green shaded portion of the graphic.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

North Korea's presence in South Korean politics

The long, tragic division of Korea continues to shape political realities on the peninsula, both north and south.  As reported by The New York Times, state prosecutors in South Korea have charged agents from the nation’s National Intelligence Service with writing more than 5,000 posts on the Internet in a psychological warfare campaign against North Korea since 2009, using some of them to attack domestic opposition parties and their candidates ahead of South Korea’s presidential election last December.

The report noted that "The agents’ top supervisor, Won Sei-hoon, the former director of the intelligence agency, was accused of overseeing the online operation and was indicted on Friday. Prosecutors said they did not indict the nine agents because they were simply obeying Mr. Won’s instructions — a decision that the political opposition called a whitewash on Friday."

Also according to The New York Times, "Prosecutors saw at least 73 of the posts uploaded by the agents between September and December as attempts to influence the presidential election. The posts criticized the main opposition Democratic Party and a minor progressive party and their presidential candidates, accusing them of being too soft on North Korea or sympathizing with it."