Friday, July 28, 2017

North Korea elite use Gmail, Facebook and iTunes

A report by the threat intelligence company, Recorded Future, is attracting considerable attention in the mainstream media today, and appropriately so.  (Read The Washington Post story here).  Recorded Future is a startup company founded in 2009 with offices in Massachusetts, Virginia, Sweden and the UK.  It delivers threat intelligence powered by machine learning.  The company's patented technology automatically collects and analyzes intelligence from technical, open, and dark web sources. (click on graphic to see a full size version).
In June and July of this year, Recorded Future published a two-part study of cyber and internet usage patterns in North Korea.  The first report, entitled "North Korea is Not Crazy,"  examines North Korean cyber activity in the context of that nation's military strategy, national goals and security perceptions.  The second report, entitled "North Korea's Ruling Elite are not Isolated," explores the internet activity of the country's ruling elite.  The study is based on analysis of activity traceable to IP addresses that are known or suspected to be used mainly by North Korea's elites.  Such analysis makes it difficult to completely eliminate the possibility that internet usage by foreign diplomats or journalists might be included in the results.  Nevertheless, the findings are persuasive and represent the first such public study based on empirical data.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Korea's bizarre reliance on Microsoft's Active-X

Yesterday I attempted to book a KTX ticket from Incheon to Busan online and was surprised to see that Korail, among other public organizations, continues to require the download and installation of a Microsoft Active-X control in order to complete the transaction.   At that point, I gave up my attempt to book the ticket, not wanting to expose my PC to the security risk that use of Active-X entails.
The problem of Active-X has been apparent for many years, as illustrated by these prior posts.   Three years ago, then- President Park Geun-hye assembled a large group of business leaders at the Blue House and implored them to stop using Active-X.   Today it is truly amazing that this issue continues to hamper Korea's online commerce.   It is a subject of media attention again, now that the new administration of President Moon Jae-In has promised to rid the country of its reliance on Active X.  See, for example, this article in The Investor.
Part of the problem is the continued widespread use of Microsoft's old Internet Explorer browser in Korea.   As shown in the first graphic (click for a full size version) the Chrome browser overtook Explorer in early 2012 on a worldwide basis.  In sharp contrast, according to Statcounter, usage of Chrome only overtook Internet Explorer in Korea as of early 2016, a full four years later. (click on the second graphic for a full size version)  In fact, Japan and Korea are the only major economies where a large portion of the population continues to use Internet Explorer.  Microsoft's new Edge browser does not support Active X because it is a security risk and the company has warned consumers of the dangers of Active X for years.  
At this point, "bizarre" is not too strong a word to describe South Korea's entrenched reliance on Active X.  It is damaging to the economy and a major security risk.  It may relate in part to this nation's heavy concentration on hardware manufacturing and export rather than software and services.    However, the rest of the world has long since moved away from Active-X and it is long past time that South Korea does as well, before this situation becomes even more of an embarrassment.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Gangnam style no longer most-watched YouTube video

The international media have noted that Psy's Gangnam Style is no longer the most watched video on YouTube as measured by cumulative views.  (Click on the graphic to see a full size version.)   As reported by the BBC,"The surreal video became so popular that it "broke" YouTube's play counter, exceeding the maximum possible number of views (2,147,483,647), and forcing the company to rewrite its code." Gangnam Style has now been overtaken by another music video - Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's See You Again, a heart-wrenching ballad that has now been streamed 2,895,373,709 times; beating Psy's current count of 2,894,426,475 views.
Another measure of the global impact of Gangnam Style provides important context for comparisons with See You Again.   The accompanying graphic (click for a full size version) shows the worldwide volume of searches for Gangnam Style and See You Again, respectively.  Narrowing the Google Trends analysis to "You Tube searches" produces a similar graph.   Not only did Gangnam Style break the YouTube play counter.   It also produced a higher level of global interest, as indicated by web searches, than the newer See You Again.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sports diplomacy: co-hosting of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics?

Is it possible that North and South Korea could come to an agreement to co-host the 2018 Winter Olympics?  Stranger things have happened.  Three decades ago, South Korea and the IOC held serious negotiations with North Korea about arrangements for the north to participate in the highly successful Seoul Olympics, but fell short of an agreement.  For a more detailed treatment, see my book with Park Heung Soo, Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics.
I served as an American Peace Corps Volunteer in Gangwon Province, the only divided province in South Korea.  When the 2018 Winter Olympics were awarded to PyeongChang in Gangwon Province, one of the first questions that arose in my mind was how the two Korea's might use this event for diplomatic purposes.   I've posted a number of times on this topic.  However, those posts were published before the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye and the election earlier this year of President Moon Jae In.   President Moon has already met with North Korea's IOC member and proposed that the two Koreas field a unified team for the PyeongChang Olympics. (see the New York Times report here) (click on image for a full size version) South Korea's sports minister has suggested that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics could be the "Peace Olympics" if North Korea were to participate. (see The Telegraph article here)
Could sports diplomacy play a role in resolving the tensions on the Korean peninsula?   I think it is definitely a possibility, and one that should not be ruled out.  See this 2013 post published when I learned that North Korea was building a "world class" ski resort in the northern part of Gangwon Province.