A bizarre, sad story related to online games. A married couple in Suwon, Korea has been arrested by the police for negligence of their parental duties. The couple left their three month old baby starve to death, because they were "too obsessed with online gaming." Ironically enough, it turned out that the online game they were playing to their baby's death was themed around, well guess what, raising a virtual avatar.

So in short, the couple were too busy taking care of their "virtual baby" that they kept their "real baby" completely unattended and starved to death

The game is called "Prius Online" and the players can adopt an avatar and grow it. Game players can also buy the avatars virtual items such as clothes, or even write a blog about their avatars, much resembling a parenting diary.

The parents in charge are said to have been under great parenting stress, presumably due to their financial difficulties, and as their parenting stresses mounted, they became more and more obsessed with the game -- their "escape" from the real world.

This is really unheard of, but I'm afraid the world might see more incidents like this as games become more real and blur the lines between the real world and the virtual world. Unlike packaged games, online games and MMORPGs often do not have a clear ending, forcing users to put in endless amount of time and energy into the game. Some players become seriously obsessed with the game and play it for days straight without a wink of sleep. After days of immersive gaming, they might get to confuse the real world and the virtual world, like the way the characters in the movie Avatar gradually became more familiar with the virtual world.

1forME is Korea's Etsy

Web 2.0 | 2010/02/23 14:54 | Web 2.0 Asia

1forME is a newly launched Korean e-commerce site that sells hand-made, artists-produced goods. That's quite a mouthful, but long story short: 1forME is Etsy of Korea.

Etsy saw a gross merchandise sales of about US$ 180M last year, showing some 105% year-over-year growth. This shows that the handmade goods e-commerce is a proven business model, and for every proven business model there's always an Asia opportunity, especially if the model is culture-neutral. Well, both e-commerce and the love for handmade goods seem to be pretty universal concept, I guess.

But according to the company's heatmap, Etsy doesn't seem to have a big Asia presence. This leaves plenty of room for Asian startups to grab the opportunity. 1forME has just thrown hat in the ring, a move that's expected to be followed by many others in the region.

TAG 1forME, etsy

fanatic.fm Allows Fans To Sponsor Musicians

Web 2.0 | 2010/02/09 01:14 | Web 2.0 Asia

With the rise of internet advertising, there were lots of promises for free music, supported entirely by advertisement. (Remember Spiral Frog, anyone?) But the problem of such free, ads-supported music service was that the ads revenue was never enough to cover the licensing and other costs. Meanwhile, paid streaming services like (or Korea's Melon et al) seem to be gaining ground fast.

A new service called fanatic.fm tries to rethink ads-supported free music streaming service. Taking the same old text ads or banner ads and slapping them onto music streaming service is like trying to put a round peg into a square hole, fanatic.fm says. It's just not the best way to combine the ads and music consuming experience, they say.

Instead, fanatic.fm built a better ads system for music streaming service. It's more like a sponsorship system, where individuals or brands can "sponsor" artists so that the sponsors' brands or messages can be presented to their visitors in a more powerful way, fully blended with the right music. For example, Red Bull could strategically sponsor certain rockbands popular among X-gamers. Then people can enjoy the rockbands' songs for free, with "sponsored by Red Bull" messages. This would potentially be a better way to present Red Bull brand than simply placing textual ads next to the rock bands' music videos. Also, the sponsor doesn't have to be a corporate brand -- it could be a group of dedicated fans who would do anything that might help the artists they love, certainly including some sponsorship and donation.

Looking at the website, fanatic.fm doesn't seem to be fully launched yet, but they had already been mentioned in the MIDEM, the big music industry event held in Cannes, France, as "a company to pay attention to". fanatic.fm is the brain child of a Korean team (the same folks who did QBox), but as hinted on their website, the service is very much eyeing for the global audience.

NHN, the company behind Naver.com, recently announced 2009 financial results. The company posted annual profit of KRW 540 billion (roughly US$ 540mm) on the revenue of KRW 1.3 trillion (about US$ 1.3 billion). Both figures are all-time high, according to NHN.

NHN's profit rates, about 40% of the revenue, again proves that NHN is one giant cash generating machine. NHN is actually one of the most profitable companies in the whole Korean stock market, across all industries. The biggest contributor of this financial success is of course Naver's dominating market share in the web ads. Fueled by Naver's 60-70% search market share, Naver also sees a healthy market share of 65-70% in the nation's internet ads market.

However, apparently there are some concerns over the company's long term growth potential too. About 1/3 of NHN's profit comes from Hangame's gaming business (Hangame is the online gaming arm of NHN corporation). This is a pretty unique revenue mix; Imagine 1/3 of Google's profits are being generated by games, though clearly Google and NHN are different companies as apples and oranges are. In and of itself, generating huge profits from a gaming business would be perfectly fine; However, the problem is that much of Hangame's profit gets generated from what's called "web board games", or things like Korean poker ("Go-stop"). There are increased social concerns towards these games: As people can exchange virtual currency into real money, these games can become too addictive and potentially become borderline gamling.

Also generating investors' concerns is the under-performance of Naver's overseas operations. Naver has always been criticized as a service that achieved its greatness by monopolizing the Korean market, not by building technological unfair advantage that can also work in other countries. To overcome these concerns, Naver has been trying hard to venture into new markets and move the needles there; However, Naver's current progress in other markets can best be described as "still trying".

Naver is a great company: after all, it's the world's 7th largest internet search provider, a remarkable position given that the majority of its users are only Koreans. But without meaningful signals coming from overseas market, and less dependency of its gaming business on the poker-like games, at least Naver's stock price could stall for a while.

TAG Hangame, Naver, NHN

MBC finally gives in and embraces P2P sharing

Other | 2010/01/28 17:24 | Web 2.0 Asia

MBC, a major Korean broadcasting company, announced (link in Korean) it will make nearly all of its content available to anyone for sharing. This means any individual or company can freely grab MBC's original content and put it up on their server without any restrictions. 

MBC says they are doing this as they are confident they will be able to monetize successfully. End customers who want to download MBC content should pay around KRW 500 per episode (= about half a buck). MBC will collect the revenues from P2P service providers, and has signed agreement with 40 P2P companies. As a way to make sure there is no loophole, MBC will use the technologies that can detect free-riders -- content downloaders who do not pay for the content. There are startup companies, such as Enswer, that can filter out illegally downloaded content. 

MBC's new policy can be summed up as: Encourage more sharing/uploading, and monetize at the point of downloading. To me this seems to be a better strategy than what MBC (and all other content owners) have been trying so hard to do in the past, only in vain: Putting heavy penalties to content uploaders, in a hope such measure will scare people away. But the problem is, many of the content uploaders turn out to be 16-year highschool students, who may not be aware of all the laws and regulations, nor are easily scared in general. 

MBC says they are giving the new system a try until March this year. 

TAG Enswer, MBC

My TEDx Seoul Talk Is Now Up

Other | 2009/12/29 09:01 | Web 2.0 Asia

It looks like TEDx Seoul videos are now up. Mine is here. Show some link/share love!

Since the video is offered in Windows Media plug-in, not in Flash media (a la YouTube), I can't take the share codes and embed them in this post. Also the audio quality is obviously less than desirable, with quite a few portions of the talk sounding broken and incomprehensible -- thanks to the wireless mic that came on and off all the time, leading to the frustrations of some speakers including myself. For a conference speaker, nothing is worse than a malfuctioning mic. About 2 paragraphs of planned talk got wiped out from my brain on stage, and those were the funniest 2 paragraphs! Sigh.

As a Korean, I definitely feel more comfortable talking in Korean, but given the subject and the global nature of the conference, I did my talk in English. Subtitles don't seem to be offered yet -- but as soon as they are up, please come back and see some TED Talks by our Korean speakers. They are as much entertaining and engaging as any other TED speakers from around the world.

Chang Kim's TEDx Seoul talk: http://tedxseoul.com/xe/5491

Let's go Korea

Other | 2009/12/15 10:32 | Web 2.0 Asia

Disclaimer: Not tech-related 

(Via Lovesera) It's holiday season! For anyone interested in visiting Korea anytime soon for whatever reason, here's a good (and free) Korea guidebook. Korea Tourism Organization published an English tour guide for Korea. You can download the pdf file from the link below. It could be a good in-flight read. 

It looks KTO put the slides up on Scribd themselves, which is pretty amazing. Is Korean government finally embracing web 2.0 technologies? By the way, the organization recently had a new CEO, Lee Cham, a German-converted-to-Korean, and are moving aggressively to invite more visitors to Korea. They even hired Bae Yong Joon as an ambassador.

Let's go korea (English)

TAG Korea, Let's go Korea, tourism
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