Thursday, February 22, 2018

Korea's beloved Arirang folk song at the PyeongChang Olympics

A very interesting article appeared in The New York Times entitled "A tune heard often at these Olympics gets to the heart of being Korean."   The accompanying video contains a version of the song performed on KBS television.
The New York Times' article includes the following excerpt.  "In an 1896 essay, Homer B. Hulbert, an American missionary in Korea, wrote: “To the average Korean, this one song holds the same place in music that rice does in his food — all else is mere appendage. You hear it everywhere and at all times.” The same could perhaps be said about the song’s place at these Games. It has turned up as more than background music for the skating pair’s routine. It was played twice at Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony. It has been sung in the stands at hockey games. And with all the interaction here between North and South Korea, it has served as a stand-in national anthem for the formerly unified countries."  The rest of the article is well worth reading.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Global television and the politics of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics

Three decades ago, the 1988 Seoul Olympics carried enormous political significance for Korea, as documented in my 1993 book (with Heung Soo Park), Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics. (full text PDF downloadable here from Google Books.)  Domestically, the 1988 Olympics played a key role in South Korea's political liberalization and democratization. Internationally and in terms of Korean foreign policy, they were the principal vehicle for President Roh Tae Woo's "northern policy."  That policy opened up diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with the Soviet Union, nations of Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam, all of which had been cut off from South Korea during the long Cold War.
It is too early to say whether the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, currently underway, will have such a profound political impact on Korea, but North Korea's decision to participate in the games, and to send a high level diplomatic delegation to them, provides a glimmer of hope.  In 2018 as in 1988, television continues to play a major role in the politics of the Olympics.  Three decades ago, the Korean Olympics were a mass media event.   Today television still attracts massive global audiences for events like the Olympics.  However, people are watching on multiple screens.  The Olympics have become a "bring your own device" showcase for 5G, digital phenomenon, as amply demonstrated in the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony on February 9.

Friday, February 9, 2018

PyeongChang 2018 -- 5G networks and speed matters

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics about to formally commence with the Opening Ceremony this evening, will give the world a glimpse into what next generation networks will make possible.  This post was prompted in part by the "2018 Adobe Consumer Content Survey," which was taken in the U.S. but doubtless reflects global trends.  (click on the graphic for a full size view) 
As regular readers of this blog already know, South Korea possesses the most advanced and fastest digital network infrastructure in the world.  Furthermore, the speed (aka bandwidth) of broadband Internet connections matters a great deal. (see my numerous posts over the years on the importance of speed)  Consequently, it is no accident that the nation has built a super-fast and dense network infrastructure in and around the sports venues and will utilize the 2018 Winter Olympics to showcase to the world the possibilities for next generation (currently 5G) networks.  Ironically, these world-leading network infrastructures have been built in the largely rural and mountainous Gangwon province.
This evening, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the domestic Korea telecasts of the PyeongChang Olympics Opening Ceremony, fully recognizing that this is the latest (Since London) in a series of "bring your own device" Summer and Winter Olympic Games.   The Winter Olympics, as one of the world's largest media events, will retain that status, but with a global audience that is tuning in via multiple screens and according to their individual preferences, as facilitated by mobile apps and social media.

Samsung phones and sanctions in PyeongChang

Samsung Electronics is a leading worldwide sponsor of the Olympic games and, as described in this 2014 post about the Sochi Winter Olympics, they regularly provide members of the Olympic family with complimentary late-model smart devices.  In the case of the 2018 Winter Olympics, just getting underway in PyeongChang, the provision of special Olympic Edition Galaxy Note 8 devices to athletes from North Korea and Iran raised an issue on the grounds that this might violate United Nations sanctions against these countries.   The Washington Post published an article explaining the issue and how it was dealt with by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).