The Korea Web, Notes from Forum NetExplorateur 09

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I was invited to moderate a panel, The Ubiquitous Society – Towards a Hyperconnected World, at 6th, Feb in the Forum NetExplorateur in Paris.

As one of the themes of this forum this year is the Korea Web, a few Korean friends were invited: Jaewoong Lee is an admirable guy who founded one of the largest Korean portal, Daum and now works as a VC. Need mention that YouKu, the leading Chinese video site is in his portfolio. Chang, a good friend of mine, the founder member of OpenWeb.Asia Workgroup and initiator of OpenWebAsia conference, is now a Google guy after he sold his company TNC to Google. Heewon KIM, a pretty girl, a sociologist as she calls herself, is a researcher on Korea social web from University of YongSei. Mrs. Heekyung Min, a very nice lady from New Songdo city, is the General Director Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority (IFEZ). The discussion was also joined by some international friends, such as Patrice Nordey, Director of Atelier BNP Paribas Asia and Laurent Haug, cofounder of LIFT Conference.

As these Korean guests are all involved with Korean web industry but focus on different areas, the discussion on the Korea web was quite interesting and informative. Here are the notes to share with you:

  1. Korea market is still small. Because of that, some products are developed in Korea but aim at global market;
  2. Wide-broad wireless connection is available in many cities;
  3. Mobile TV at high speed are very popular;
  4. Online gaming is leading the global market. Chang mentioned the new shinning star, Nurien;
  5. Internet penetration rate is very high in Korea. Chang said you could find many people at the ages of my parents (around 60) are now online. Social networks is not something new in Korea, almost everyone is on for example, CyWorld.
  6. Very different market for foreign companies. Take some examples: 3% market share for Google Korea and < 0.1% for Facebook, said Jaewoong Lee. (I guess as we already know, Asia in general is very tough market for foreign Internet companies.) But they also think Google is not strong in Korea because it has not spent much effort as the korea market is relatively small;
  7. Very good infrastructure, e.g. low cost, high speed internet. Mrs. Min presents its new Songdo city which is just impressive! On the other hand, Korea companies also understands how to make the best of the infrastructure.
  8. The influence of online social media on Korean real life is getting very strong.  E.g. online protest against U.S beef import in Korea (>1million sign up for the protest). OhMyNews is a very popular social media site. And Me2Day mentioned by Heewon, the leading Korean microblog service which recently acquired by the giant Naver is also a symbol of the power of social media in Korea. But the panelists also think the democracy in Korea is very young;
  9. Local service is more adapted to Korean market (highspeed-wifi, etc), Korean government is very supportive to the local companies. The government also understands very well the trend of Internet, check its uLife concept.
  10. Good connection with western market. Chang said 15% foreign students in U.S. are from Korea which tops others, such as China.
  11. Western web actually copied ideas from Korea/Asia such as Knowledge Search on some portals, and of course the Online Gaming.
  12. Korea adapts the new technology very fast.  What’s incubulated in Korea right now: IPTV, Robot, 3D technology etc.
  13. Because of the well-established good infrastructure, Korea is a very good testbed and the market for the future.
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