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

iPhone Is The Best Selling Phone in Korea

Mobile | 2009/12/15 10:27 | Web 2.0 Asia

(Via Bloter.net) According to Atlas Research Group, a mobile-focused research firm in Korea, iPhone came out as the best selling phone in Korea in the week of November 30. During that week, iPhone posted 10.2% market share of all mobile handsets (not just smartphones) sold in Korea.

The actual market share would be higher, as the figure does not include corporate bulk sales. For instance, Daum, Korea's #2 internet portal, announced to give free iPhones to all its employees. (The plan later changed to include an option to select a Samsung phone instead.)

The biggest market share loser turned out to be Samsung, which seems pretty natural given the company's high market share. Thanks to iPhone, Samsung's smartphone market share in Korea took a hit of 25.4%, and it turned out that 43.5% of those who switched to iPhone were Samsung phone users.

Just as the iPhone was a boon for AT&T (which is now taking all the blames for poor 3G coverage in the US), iPhone is helping KT, the Korean carrier for the iPhone, gain market share. The stop-loss strategy for the market-leader SK Telecom? A killer Android device, which is rumored to be similar to Motorola Droid but is better, bound for January 2010 launch.

Image Google

No more "in Korea, iPhone is the next month phone" joke.

KT is launching Apple iPhone soon and has opened a pre-order site this past Sunday. For the first 2 days, KT sold 22,000 iPhones (which are to be shipped out on the 28th). With this run-rate, KT will likely sell 400K-500K iPhones within the year. The sales figures are quite promising, considering it's been only 2 days and some people might be giving it just a little bit more time to see if they can get a better deal. 

Speaking of the deal, iPhone in Korea looks fairly affordable. iPhone 3G S (32GB) costs KRW 946,000 (about US$800), but with KT subsidies under a 2-year contract, the phone comes in at KRW 396,000 (approx. US$ 300), and the user can pay that amount in 24-month installments. And here are KT's iPhone monthly plans: 

  • i-slim (KRW 35,000 or about US$ 30 per month): 150 mins of free calls, 200 free texts, 100MB free data use
  • i-light (KRW 45,000 or about US$ 40 per month): 200 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 500MB free data use
  • i-medium (KRW 65,000 or about US$ 60 per month): 400 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 1,000MB free data use
  • i-premium (KRW 95,000 or about US$ 90 per month): 800 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 3,000MB free data use

I'm a bit bothered by the data usage cap, but then assuming that many users will resort to Wi-fi for some of the data-heavy uses, iPhone's monthly price plans also seem pretty reasonable. Besides, these plans are not too much more expensive than the current ARPU of many mobile users anyway. 

Of course many bloggers and Twitter users, who have been crossing their fingers for the iPhone in Korea for such a long time, are rejoicing. On the contrary, Samsung and LG don't seem to be too much excited by the news. For example, Samsung's uneasiness is hinted by this news: Daum, Korea's #2 portal, had announced a plan to give free iPhones and free data charges for 2 years a while ago. Recently, Samsung has lobbied itself into the deal, and Daum is now giving an on its free phone program. Of course Samsung's new smartphones are no slouch and have better specs than iPhone in quite a few areas. But the talk of the town, at least for now, is clearly the iPhone. 

Korean March Madness, and the Nation of Online Games

Other | 2009/03/25 08:53 | Web 2.0 Asia

Korea has had its own version of March Madness, in the name of World Baseball Classic. Korean team won the silver medal in a close nail-biter against Japan. What a match. 

Now the games are over, and it's not only the players, some of whom have gained great visibility and along with that a better chance to play in the Majors when they become free agents, who have benefited big time from the World Baseball Classic. On the side of the Korean players' helmet was the advertisement of an online game "Magoo Magoo", and the game saw a great traffic surge thanks to that helmet ad.  

"Magoo" (魔球) means "crazyball" in Korean. The online game allows players to recruit real players - so it's the combination of fantasy baseball and online baseball game. The game is already hugely popular among Korean game players, but the helmet ad only added to its popularity: CJ Internet (service provider of Magoo Magoo) says the game saw a traffic growth of up to 220% during the World Baseball Classic. 

The fact that the national baseball team's sponsor was an online game service is something that I can't think of would be the case for other countries, and I think that just about shows how much Koreans embrace online games. 

On a separate note, another recent news about Korean online gaming industry is that AION, the new game from NC Soft, the largest online game service provider in Korea famous for Lineage series, seems to have hit another jackpot for the company. NC Soft is aiming to reach $1bn revenue mark with AION, a feat that the company had already achieved with Lineage. 

Now, the beauty of online games market is that one hit product doesn't necessarily canibalize into the market of another hit product. That means NC Soft is already raking in good money with its Lineage series, and on top of that, there is a fresh influx of revenues from AION. NC Soft's revenue can effectively double - which explains the recent surge of its stock price. 

NC Soft 3-months stock price (from Naver Stock)

TAG game, Korea, online

Universal Chargers: nothing new for Korea

Mobile | 2009/02/28 11:49 | Web 2.0 Asia

(Contributed by Andrew Ace)

It was recently announced in Barcelona that all the major cell phone manufacturers will start to use a single universal charger by the year 2012.  This announcement at the 2009 Mobile World Congress will also include Korean giants LG and Samsung.  Soon, a universal Micro-USB technology will be used across the board. 

So, what’s the big deal?

Korea has had a universal charger for a few years now.  Any cell phone can use the same charger.  Imagine you’re over at a friend’s house and your phone’s battery is running low?  No problem, use their charger to bring your battery back to life.  How convenient is it to be able to run into a convenience mart and drop off your phone to be recharged, come back and it’s ready to go.  Now the rest of the world is catching on and deciding that is a good idea. 

Of course there are some good and bad that will stem from this initiative.  Luckily, I feel that the good far outweighs the bad.  First of all each cell phone operator, at least in the US, has developed its own proprietary connection for its cell phone.  So we have many different styles of connectors.  It’s bad for the companies because they will be losing sales by selling their own chargers and connecting wires.  It’s good for the consumer because now we can easily purchase a cheaper costing charger from any electronics store or even borrow that extra charger that our friend has, permanently.

Other than that, I only see good possibilities moving forward with this initiative.  I think we will all start seeing the wasted production of all these different chargers going out the door.  This may create extra production capacity which can be used for something else creating a more efficient world.  Also, it will become less of a strain for the environment having to deal with all the extra chargers that are unused throughout the world and just thrown away.  Companies could even start leaving chargers out of their original packaging.  If they decide to build chargers out of their pricing models they could possibly increase their revenues through selling chargers upon customer request.

So what does this have to do with Korea?  It shows that once again an initiative that Korea decided was good for the country has been validated.  Korea continues to remain at the forefront of cell phone technology and thinking.  Perhaps wireless power adapters will be the next addition to Korean handheld devices.  Maybe that’s a little too forward but since we won’t be seeing the new Micro-USB chargers coming out in full force until 2012 we can already count one point for Korea being a couple years ahead of the initiative.


Andrew Ace is a Korean-American entrepreneur who graduated from Boston University in Finance and Law.  He has worked with a couple different US start-ups such as www.maestro.fm.  Andrew originally began his interest in technology start-ups when he founded Job’oozle, formerly www.joboozle.com (warning: joboozle.com is now a link farm), while he was in college with 5 other students at Harvard and Dartmouth.  His experience is in social networking and viral marketing techniques.  He is currently working on a new start-up in Korea. 

See? I told ya Asian bloggers are different

Web 2.0 | 2009/02/27 14:36 | Web 2.0 Asia

A Seoul-based blog marketing company called Blogyam published "Blogosphere Insight", a report on Korea's blog users. The report looked at more than 57,000 blogs from 7 major blog services (Naver, Daum, Tistory, Egloos, Empas, Joins.com blog, Chosul Ilbo blog), and 13 million blog posts - quite extensive coverage, hence a good credibility, I guess. 

First of all, in Korea, teens were the biggest age group among bloggers, and overall there were more female blolggers than male bloggers. Remember the figures do NOT count Cyworld minihompies - we are talking about *blogs* (think Bloggers and Voxes.)

This was a bit surprising to me as most bloggers I know are guys. But the report shows this is indeed the case for my age (30's). Bloggers in their thirties are 70% male, 30% female; However, for teen bloggers it's exactly the reverse - 70% girls, 30% boys. In the picture blow, blue graph represents female, while the pink part represents male. (Who said pink is for girls?)

In terms of blog topics, music came out as the most topular theme. It was followed by daily musings, animation/manga, photos, game, travel, movies, IT/computer, and so on. Interestingly enough, Japan was one of the major topics, with nearly 2% of blogs touching the topic. It is observed that Korean bloggers usually like to write about casual topics, such as entertainment and daily musings, rather than serious topics. 

Posting behavior of Korean bloggers also turned out to be different from that of the US bloggers. Among all blog posts, a whopping 69% had at least one photo/image in the them. Nearly 20% of all posts had either video or music embedded in the post too. 

69% of blogs have photo

18.6% of blogs have music/video

However, only 22% of all posts were text-only blogs. This shows Korean blogging involves heavy use of multimedia files. In one way or another, the Korean way of blogging is turned out to be different from that of the US - and I assume this would be the case for other Asian cultures as well. 

Text-only: 22%

Joop Dorresteijn over at the Next Web wrote a piece on Korean web, for which I contributed via email interviews:
Today, South Korea is the most connected country on earth, but the funny thing is that we hardly hear anything about Korea’s web scene. This made us curious about what websites are popular over there, and if Korea has a web 2.0 scene. To find that out, we reviewed the three visited websites in Korea and we interviewed Chang W. Kim, Korean web 2.0 enthusiast and initiator of the Open Web Asia ‘08 conference.

Chang has written before about why so little South Korean companies get ‘Techcrunched‘. He thinks that it’s related to the lack of efforts to bring the Asian Web 2.0 innovations to the attention of the rest of the world. “Less effort to get these companies known, less attention to Asian Web 2.0 industry, less venture money flowing in, less number of startups, and so on.”
Which is why we are making such initiatives as the Open Web Asia workgroup (initiated by Gang Lu at Mobinode) and the Open Web Asia '08 conference (for which an update post is long overdue - check back here next week.)
TAG Korea, web

Web 2.0? No, it's Society 2.0

Web 2.0 | 2008/06/10 00:43 | Web 2.0 Asia
The whole Korean society is literally in frenzy now. Just look at this picture. We have protests like these every single day in Seoul.

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So what happened? Here's my one paragraph summary for you: The new Korean president Mr Lee hastily signed the US beef import agreement, without paying close attention to banning the kind of beef that might potentially cause mad cow disease. Fitting his nickname "bulldozer", Lee tried to push through his plan despite serious concerns. Amid this, the traditional media tried to play a cover-up game, accusing the public health concerns as unfounded rumors and the protesters as left-wing manipulators.

But the majority of protesters were not political minds - they were average Koreans who were deeply upset by the government and the old media. Given that many Koreans are web-savvy, always-connected, blogging-like-crazy folks, what we had was essentially millions of angry bloggers.

Ouch. You don't really want to imagine what happens when you have millions of angry bloggers.

Behind the massive physical protests, there are even more massive web activities: Protests are organized by mobile messages and broadcast on the internet live at the scene. But the government and traditional media embarrass themselves on a daily basis by not "getting it". The government once mistook Daum's Agora, the massively popular internet discussion forum, as some kind of secret political party. (Duh?)

It used to be so easy - the government could just set up a plan, push through it, let the media do its part. But the web 2.0 turned nearly every single Korean into a media figure. Now everyone ventilates his or her ideas on the internet, to which all others are responding back and forth - the amount of communication taking place grows exponentially. It ain't simple and easy anymore. If you want to lead people, you should do it in a 2.0 way, or you're doomed.

This is what Korean politicians and old media folks are slowly realizing (if they ever are, that is), in a very painful and costly way. Politicians around the world can learn some important lessons from what's happening in Korea - Are you there, Barack Obama?

PS. There's a deeper analysis on this matter on Taewoo's Technokimchi.
Here's the video of my interview with Myspace co-founder and CEO, Chris DeWolf, and also with Travis Katz and Sung Lee, both VPs at Myspace. (Sung is heading up the Asian operation of Myspace.)

Do you know what keeps Myspace CEO up at night? The fact that there are local competitors in every country, and that he has to keep track of about 30 of them.

As a tech blogger, this was really a golden opportunity for me - Well, it's not like you get to interview Myspace CEO every day, right?

The interview went very smoothly. I'm not necessarily saying this was a good thing though. In retrospect, I think the interview could have carried more "sting", with perhaps more jokes and curve balls (ie. hard questions) thrown. To defend myself a bit, somehow the settings were not entirely conversational - I suspect this was because at the end of every sentence we all had to wait for the translator to translate the entire paragraph.

By the way, it's worth noting that more and more Silicon Valley CEOs are visiting Korea. Interview with Chris marked the second time I met a big-name Silicon Valley CEO during the span of three days (the first such meeting was with Max Levchin of Slide.com.)

So who should I interview the next time in Korea, Google founders maybe? :)
TAG Chris DeWolf, Interview, Korea, , Sung Lee, Travis Katz
(Tipped by Joyce Kim) Rain, a Korean popstar, is yet again getting the most votes for this year's Time magazine 100 Most Influential People list.

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Rain, a Korean pop star

Joyce calls Rain "...the biggest guy in Asia, like Michael Jackson and JT rolled up into one. Mega mega star in Asia..." (Who's JT by the way? Oh, a quick googling tells me it must be Justin Timerlake - he comes out on top). 

Rain received the most votes last year - Notice (the venerable) Steve Jobs was at a mere #11.

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Is Rain really the most influential person of the world? Is he really making this world a better place to live? I don't know about that. (For his fans, I'm sure he is.) But the vote clearly shows that, when it comes to online voting, no one really beats the internet-savvy Koreans. Although most Korean fans of Rain might not understand English, they won't have problem recognizing how to push Rain to the top on the online voting. They'd do the same even if the sites are in Russian.

Joyce's service, Soompi.com, encourages its users to go vote for Rain - If you happen to be a Rain fan (which I highly doubt given the audience of this blog), here's the link for you to show some love for Rain.
TAG Joyce Kim, Korea, rain, Soompi, TIME