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Chang W Kim - Korea Internet Galapagos

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So, the late 1990s were the good days for the Korean Internet, because, first of all, we had a very great infrastructure for broadband. The three important countries in the Northeast Asia would be China, Japan, and Korea. And obviously Korea is being the smallest country of them but in terms of economic size, we're not very that small, I mean, not by a very terribly big margin. This is GDP and as you can see, the export, we're doing about 1/3 of China's, or actually slightly more than half of Japan's. So that was, you know, not terribly bad. But, when it comes to the land size, it's a whole different story. So if China was a size of a watermelon, and if Japan was a strawberry, Then, (Laugh) Korea would be a size of a pea. And, (Laugh) don't forget to cut that in half, because, you know, the country is divided, (Laugh) and my teacher would say that 70% of the whole country is actually mountains where people cannot live, (Laugh) So that leaves us only 30% of a half a pea. But, surprisingly, this is also home to some 48 million people. So obviously Korea is one of the most crowded, and busiest, and craziest society. We thought this was a bad thing, you know, Korea being a small country, that's a bad thing, until, that is, the broadband penatration came around, and when the broadband came around, Korea being a small country actually adds to its advantage. Where, this is the figures from 2000, and already in 2000, 94% of all Internet users in Korea were on broadband. And if you see the numbers from other countries, this is really amazing and dramatic. And wireless, too. I mean the wireless connection in Korea was so good that we couldn't actually get out of it. So people were getting the call... (Laugh) Really, we couldn't get out of it. So when we're watching the American movies where the good guys are being chased by the bad guys, and then pick up the phone to make a call to get some help and there's no signal, and we're like, "...why..?" (Laugh) When I was working at a phone company we actually had to creat a shield room, something that looks like a refrigerator, just to keep the wireless connection off. This was pretty amazing. So that was the infrastructure, and now there's the people. You know, Koreans are really homogeneous people and we share a lot of interest, ranging from World Cup games to (inaudible), Koreans share a lot of social issues. As you can see here, one example is (Laugh) the X-file, you know, what we call X-file. This is sort of like the dirty laundry secrets of Korean entertainers, that had been got leaked a couple of years ago. And everybody, there's a figure that says that within the first 24 hours, half the nation actually saw this. (Laugh) So it really shows how much of a viral effect Korea had. And also on top of this, there was the Government support. There were pro-venture policies, and as a result, we had this Tehran Valley, that's an equivalent to Silicon Valley of the U.S. So, this led to a lot of new innovations, a lot of interesting innovations, and many of those innovations were actually the World first. For example, we were using Internet telephone sevice a lot, already in the late 1990s, thanks to a company called Dialpad, and everybody was having one of these, they were calling this Dialpad headset. And this actually preceded Skype by nearly 4 years. And also the U.S. is all about the virtual goods and virtual economy but Koreans were used to this from the 90s as well. And Cyworld happens to precede Facebook by 5 years. Nearly 5 years. Also, Naver Q&A service, this is a Q&A, question and answer service, and it has 10 times more entries than the whole Wikipedia, and this was before Yahoo! Answers by 3 years. And also Korea, of course, gave birth to the first professional gaming league, online gaming league of the world, and this, what we call E-sport, is now one of the most popular sports of any sport. Baseball, football, and there's E-sport. So this is pretty amazing. This headstart actually continues to this day, where Korea leads the world by a lot of numbers, in terms of Internet usage, 99.9% of teens are using the Internet. and people spent about 1,600 minutes on the Internet, in Feburary 2009, and this is average 56 minutes per day. This includes everyone, including your own grandmother, so this is really amazing numbers, if you think about it. And 11 million people visited online gaming sites, This is 13 times per month and every time they were spending 3 hours in each site. So, Korea was amazing, but now, you know, the usage is there, but Korea is not really innovating anymore. Korea used to be innovaters, but now it's not really innovating. Why? First, there is a walled garden. Internet portals send most of the traffic to the content within those portals, rather than seding the traffic out. So you can see there a lot of portals, a lot of traffic is coming within the portals. Also, the monoculture and the walled garden actually strated from the browser itself where this is a recent figure from Internet Trend that says 98.5% of Koreans are using Internet Explorer. This is pretty bad because (Laugh) I know, you're laughing because you've seen like that many times. And this essentially (inaudible) in Korea, you cannot buy a Macintosh computer on Macintosh. You have to buy a PC first, because you know, you cannot buy one from the online store, because your credit card doesn't come through. (Laugh) Also, the mobile. This is from my servie carrier, KTF, and they have all these different plans. They even have a plan called World Cup 2002 plan. They're giving 2,002 minutes of free calls. but they're not giving me what I really want, which is affordable, unlimited DATA plan. I want that but I cannot get it. This is interesting because one time my sister paid a visit to our place, and my nephew, a small kid, was playing with my phone, and then I heard my sister yelling, "Don't ever press that button, who told you to press that button!" And that turned out to be that middle button that connects to the wireless Internet. And, the interesting thing was at that time I was writing a piece, a column about the Korean mobile Internet industry, and that, I realized that if my own sister is doing this, this is certainly bad. Just imagine that mothers yelling at kids who're using the computers, "You can double click on any icons but not that one," "because that's expensive,and that (inaudible)" (Laugh) You know, we don't have that, right? So if you think about this, you can see how seriously wrong this is. And another issue is the Government control, obviously, in order to use major services of Korea, you have to go through a real identity verification system. Obviously, this makes it a lot more difficult for foreigners to try new Korean services. And this is also a very stark contrast to the simple registration forms we're seeing a lot these days And the idea of the Government being able to know who you are when they want to, is really jarring And a lot of people actually went out of the Korean services so called Cyber Exiles. And this person is a Cyber pundit, who used to write a lot of critical pieces about the Korean government, the Government prosecutors got to learn his real identity and tracked him down. So this is really another fetter. The problem doesn't, I don't think peoblem lies only with the Government, or the service provider. It actually lies with the people as well. Where, there's a lot of rampant illegal downloads, This is figures from last year, 47% of all Internet users in Korea illegally downloaded 55 movies a year. This is again the average, so this is pretty bad. So alarming signs, Korean Internet used to be innovaters, but not any more, it's actualy going the other direction. We're actually decreasing. This is the annual figures. We saw some of the figures go down this year. Community service, social networks, Mini Hompis, down 20%. And the mobile, as well. The mobile Internet is pretty expensive so people don't really use it. So we have the lowest, if you see the right hand, we have the lowest percentage of mobile data services out of the total ARPU. This means the most people use either voice phone calls or SMS communications or MMS, and that's pretty much it. So this is pretty bad. And you know, I'm just wondering, so, I'm writing a blog about the Korean mobile and Internet innovations, and these days my blog posting has been a little bit slow, and people are like, "You have to write more," The reason why my blogging has slowed down is partly becasue I'm busy, but also because I don't see a lot of innovations around. So do we have any signs of hope? Do we see any signs of hope? That's the next question. And I think we're seeing some signs of hope. But definitely, there have to be more signs of hope, I guess. The major services are opening up, they embrace the open source and open Internet a lot, these days. iPhone's coming out finally so as you can see there, at least we're beating Catar. (Laugh) Yeah, that's a good thing, yeah. (Laugh) Even though we're behind Equatorial Guinea, (Laugh) And just people here would know that (inaudible), since there has been so much rumours about iPhone is coming out next month, iPhone is actually nicknamed the next month phone, (Laugh) But finally, we're having iPhone in the "next month". (Laugh) So people, I mean, you know, we've seen a lot of parodies about these iPhone stories, you know, people getting frustrated but finally they find their ways like this. (Laugh) You know, people are better now, because we've been through all this time. And Twitters, (inaudible) I understand, I just saw that a lot of people are twitting at this moment, so with iPhone and Twitter, I think Koreans are finally, you know,at least given a chance to the global services, I guess. And people like Professor Kim Gi-Chang, he's been fighting against this IE monoculture, and the thing is that he lost a lawsuit again, (inaudible). But I don't think this is only a legal issue, though. It's all about...let's just imagine that we have cities like this, where a big city, IE city, with 40 million people on it, and there're smaller towns like Fire Foxville and Chrometown, but we do know that people are living here. Then, would we not be interested in building roads for them, and building electricity for them, and water system? We would probably do that, right? But we're not doing something like that in the online world, and that's really, I think, fundamentally wrong. Illegal movie downloading is decreasing, and the legal use of digital content is growing up, which are the good signs. But out of all these signs of hope, I think the most important thing is this. The young entrepreneurs. We have a group of young entrepreneurs, that are really new generations and they embraced the globalness from day one. They are the ones who're really the brave souls, they want to fight against all the odds, they want to beat the odds, and they want to build great products, and they want to make it rich. I think these are the greatest signs of hope for Korean Internet. In fact, yesterday, 2 new services came out of these people only yesterday, so that's a very good thing. I think the society has to give a chance to these young entrepreneurs. For example, we know that the Government is spending a lot on the civil (inaudible) stuff, but I'm just hoping that they'll spend more money to support these young entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists have to step forward and invest more in these young start-ups. Because without these people, if you want to revive, if you ever want to revive the Korean Web, I think you have to start from these people, and without these people, there's really no future for the Korean Web. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 14 minutes and 34 seconds
Country: South Korea
Language: English
Director: TEDxSeoul
Views: 135
Posted by: tedxvideo on Mar 12, 2010

'왜 한국은 그 좋은 인프라를 갖고 internet 의 innovation leader 가 되지 못하는가?' 90년대 말부터 현재에 이르기까지 한국의 인터넷 인프라가 세계적으로 얼마나 선도적인 것인지를 말하며, 그런데 왜 우리나라의 인터넷은 한국에 갖혀 있을까? 태터툴스의 전 공동 대표 김창원님의 진단을 들어봅니다.

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