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

Help Needed: My TEDx Seoul Talk on November 28

Other | 2009/11/17 00:26 | Web 2.0 Asia

TEDx is an extension of TED conference that are independently organized and hosted by local groups around the world. Various cities have held TEDx's, and now it's finally Seoul's turn. The inaugural TEDx Seoul will be held on Saturday, November 28, in Sinchon, Seoul (near Yonsei University). For more info, visit TEDx Seoul website

I've been invited as a speaker (many thanks to those recommended me! Thou shall receive karma). The topic that I chose was, well, what else could it be? The Korean web. Given that TEDx Seoul is not a super geeky conference, I will keep my talk to be pretty high-level. 

Here are some of the underlying thoughts for my talk, as can be found on the website: 

"Ten years ago, Korea was an innovation powerhouse in the web industry -- The country was filled with entrepreneurship and was churning out some of the most interesting web services before any other countries did. But these days Korea-born innovations are hard to come by. On the contrary, some worry that Korea might be becoming "internet Galapagos", inflicted by walled gardens and lack of entrepreneurial spirits. What happened, and what should Korea do? Are there any signs of hope we can find?"

Based on this, I have put together some slides that may form the foundation of my talk (definitely far from being a final version, as you can see). Final slides will likely feature bunch of pics and images, true to TED tradition. 

TEDx early draft
View more presentations from chang1.

Now, I'd like to ask your collective intelligence to help me build my cases. My talk will be roughly organized into three parts: a) good old days of the Korean web industry, b) challenges we are facing, and c) signs of hope that we can see despite all those challenges. I will especially focus my talk on the c), namely the "signs of hope" part, because that's what matters most anyway. This is the area that I'm having most difficulty finding compelling cases too. 

So anyone out there reading this post, please help me out: Let me know any interesting people, companies, ideas, or trends that you believe will help re-igniting the Korean web. I know it's a big and awfully vaguely defined question, but I'm intentionally leaving it open-ended for now so that you can give me, well, anything. Let's keep good ideas coming. Thanks in advance!

I'm finally breaking out of my social media silence. Coming back from business trip and holidays, I was faced with ridiculous amount of work. 

Lift Asia 2009 is taking place in beautiful Jeju Island right next week. (September 17-18) For those who don't know, Lift is Europe's TED. It's not necessarily a tech conference per se, but there is plenty of talks on technology. LIFT is more about fundamental trends and inspirations than about, say, the latest protocol for web data exchange. How does "objects that blog about their interactions with the environment", or  "a building that changes shape in real time depending on its inhabitants' behavior" sound to you? Pretty cool, ain't it?  

LIFT's main conference is held in Europe in Spring, and the Fall event is happening in Asia. The venue for the Asian event is (just like the last year) Korea's Jeju Island - the southern-most part of the country that's arguably as tranquil/tropical/exotic as any other getaway trip destinations in South East Asia. 

Jeju Island - photo from Flickr

Of course the key difference between spending your early Fall in other nice places and Jeju is that, with LIFT Asia, you can recharge your intellectual mojo while also bathing in the sun. Speakers are definitely top-notch and are bringing with themselves lots of exciting experiences and expertise. If not for LIFT, where can you possibly meet the folks who are building next-generation robots, buildings, and games in one place? 

Well, simply saying "meet" would not be sufficient, because the networking session will make everyone into friends. Jeju's secluded environment keeps all attendees and speakers away from big-city distractions and almost force them to spend the evenings together. You want some real networking? LIFT Asia is the right conference for you to attend. You can register at LIFT's official homepage

TAG Lift, LIFT Asia

Seoul: Best city for mobile LBS?

Other | 2009/07/28 20:36 | Web 2.0 Asia

Yet another interesting, "only possible in Korea" story. For those who didn't know, Seoul is pretty famous for its healthy (or almost unhealthy?) dose of night life. Recently, a civil organization called Citizen's Movement for No Prostitution published "escort businesses map" of Gangnam Gu, southern part of Seoul. 

As expected, the whole Gangnam area is found to be jam-packed with various kinds of nightlife places where people can drink and, if they want, buy sex. Does this spell a business opportunity for nightlife-focused mobile LBS (location-based service)? You figure it out. 

Apparently, Google is not the only company that . Just a day before the "nuclear bomb" news about the Chrome OS, Tmax, a Korean software company, unveiled (link Korean) a demo version of their new OS called none other than "Tmax Window". 

Tmax Window is squarely aiming to become Korea's Microsoft Windows fighter. The promise: Works just like Microsoft Windows, but the price is half. During the product demo, Tmax ran Starcraft game and Microsoft Office on its Tmax Window. The applications somehow ran, but there were still many rough edges and glitches, participants witnessed. Tmax Window will go on sale in November this year. 

Tmax is one of the leading software companies in Korea, most famous for its middleware server solution. They take huge pride in being the only Korean company (or one of only few local players anywhere in the world) competing head-on against global software giants such as Microsoft and Oracle. Pride is good, but it may not necessarily mean success: Especially with the Tmax Window, one can't help but question if Tmax is fighting a worthy fight. When even Microsoft itself is much struggling to launch a OS that just works, will Tmax ever get a chance? 

It remains to be seen if TMax Window will be a contender at least in the Korean market, but one thing is dead clear: The company couldn't have picked up a worse time. With Google's Chrome OS announcement, chances are not many people will care Tmax Window anyway. 

TAG tmax, Windows

This is not the post aboout the latest, cutting edge IT development of Korea. New York Times reports a man nicknamed the "antenna man", who has set up 85 satellite dishes in his rural house. 

You might wonder if this person is either an eccentric type trying to receive some signals from aliens in the outer space, or a TV maniac who just can't be satisfied with hundreds of Korean satellite TV channels -- but the story actually goes deeper than that. What started out as a man's hobby is now one of the best ways to serve the local community, which has many foreign wives suffering from homesickness. 

In South Korea, which had once prided itself on being a homogeneous society, 4 out of 10 women who married in rural communities last year were foreign born. In Yeongju alone, the number of foreign wives increased by 28 percent in the past year and a half, to 250, half of them from Vietnam.
“These women have a hard time fitting in. The local governments, and the husbands, often focus only on making them ‘Korean,’ teaching them the Korean language and computer skills,” said Mr. Lee, 39, who has never married. “They don’t quite understand how isolated these women feel.”

When Mr. Lee, who lives with his 80-year-old mother and 97-year-old grandfather, is not toying with his satellite equipment, he tends his pepper and sesame fields or makes the rounds of nearby villages to see if the foreign brides are having any problems with their television reception.

Exploring the possibilities of interactive media

Other | 2009/06/16 14:34 | Web 2.0 Asia

Note: This is a guest post by Jean K. Min, former director of international division at OhmyNews. The post is excerpt from Min's presentation on May 21 for the Infinity Ventures Summit in Sapporo, Japan. 

David Carnoy, a technology news reporter at CNET, had a burning question: just how old Amazon Kindle e-book readers actually are? As Amazon Kindle has been increasingly touted among the old media circle as one of the most likely saviors of the dying newspapers, it was an interesting question that merits a deeper look.

Since Amazon has released no official data about the demographic profile of Kindle users, Carnoy conducted an unscientific “poll” in the Amazon.com forum, asking how old the forum’s Kindle users were. His finding gleaned from over 700 responses came as a rude wake-up call for some newspaper moguls who had pinned their hope on the popular e-book reader--some 70 percent of Kindle users were over 40’s.

Carnoy’s discovery, although low in scientific rigors, has confirmed my long-held suspicion if Kindle, apparently popular among relatively older user groups, is simply going to replicate the old habits of analogue age news-reading in the digital form, hence losing the opportunity to exploit the vast potential of the online news. Readers over 40’s should be generally considered ‘digital immigrants’ and if Amazon failed to attract digital natives--those in their 10s to 30s--to Kindle, its long-term future seems doomed. 

Many believe that people read newspapers to look for new information; however I believe newspaper reading is largely out of habits, a daily ritual to be reminded that they still belong to the society, not left alone in the dark. Digital natives, on the other hand, had had no chance to form a strong attachment to the peculiar newspaper smell. To many, their first contact with the news usually was on the Internet, where news-reading is not so much a search for the information as a catch-up with the talk of the town. 

No wonder that the most popular services in many online news sites are usually the "most read," "most emailed," "most blogged" or "most searched" news section. However, they are not just useful indicators for tracking the hottest issues of the town today--they are the collective editorial decisions emerging from the implicit participation of readers, feasible only in the online space.

In a highly competitive society such as Korea where people are driven by the permanent anxiety that they might be left behind alone in the dark, excluded from the top conversations of the peers, the importance of the Web's amazing feature that allows readers to track the "most-talked-about topics" is even more pronounced. 

DAUM, a major Korean portal, even tracks and publishes the demographic, geographic and, yes, psychographic profiles of readers for every news article they publish, making it handy for its readers to follow the current buzz among different groups. You want to know what women in their 40's living in Seoul are reading about this morning? DAUM has an answer for you and will update it as you are reading.

Amazon Kindle and other e-book readers, on the contrary, is the device that simply presents the editorial decision made from the above. Still, Sankei Shimbun, a conservative Japanese daily has decided early this year to join the e-book trend by distributing its newspapers in the print form via its iPhone application, repackaging the print age editorial decision from the above for the iPhone generation.

The case of Amazon Kindle and Sankei's iPhone app, however, looks like another example to me that proves how difficult it is to shatter the old habits bequeathed from the print age. 

Newspapers, I believe, do not necessarily have to resort to the Internet to turn itself to an interactive media, however. Here is one suggestion; what if newspapers print a following announcement on every Monday paper--"Here are some story ideas we you want you to vote for." Editors can select from the story ideas that earned the most votes on its Web site and ask their staff writers to turn them into actual stories. Newspapers, though limited in its scale, can encourage editorial participation of their readers this way, turning them from passive consumers of the free content to involved stakeholders. Actually, this would be a much more important benefit of this editorial contraption.

Old habits die hard. When the IT industry buzzed about the "Web publishing tools" back in the early 1990's, the publishing world's old habits stick to the Internet, blinding the people from the exciting potential of the new medium. It took nearly full ten years for the industry to understand the true interactive nature of the "read and write Web".

The real crux of the matter is that the same mistakes will be repeated in the mobile Internet age--the old habits left from the Cyberspace era will blind us again from discovering the new rules of the hybrid space that is "memosphere".

News, The Killer App.

Jean K. Min joined OhmyNews as a director of international division in early 2004. Since then he programmed and executed the launching of  OhmyNews International, its English language edition with an aim to replicate OhmyNews' success home on the global stage. 
A life-time follower of Marshall McLuhan, he experimented with various medium as a communication designer at Cheil Communications, Samsung's in-house advertising agency. He also contributed to the launching of  Seoprise.com, an influential political web zine in Korea that, together with OhmyNews, played a vital role in electing the former South Korean reformist president Roh in 2002.

He is currently profiling the latest development in Korean technology sector in Planet Size Brain.

Last weekend, the news that caught all Koreans in shock was the former president Roh's death. The nation is in mourning, and many of the major Korean internet sites were quick to participate in the mourning by employing monotone hues on their front page. Portals also have opened public forums where users can leave messages of condolescence. As societies become more connected, internet portals are becoming more and more the default window that reflects the society's current sentiments and the zeitgeist.  

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