Category Archives: Korea

Chosun Ilbo op-ed on Korean Microsoft monoculture

A Chosun Ilbo columnist (a leading Korean news provider), Kim Ki-cheon, has an op-ed regarding the Microsoft monoculture in Korea:

Korea’s Internet Is Mired in a Microsoft Monoculture

Korea is at the cutting edge in technology, the state of the art in e-commerce, an early adopter of third-generation wired and wireless communication, broadband and personal media. Yet 99.9 percent of computer users are on Microsoft Windows. Mac users cannot bank or shop online, nor do these users have access to government websites. The same goes for users of Linux, the free user-generated OS, and those using Mozilla Firefox or Opera to browse the web.

The observation comes from an early 2007 entry on a Japanese blog, written shortly after the blogger’s disappointing visit to Korea. It is not an unfair assessment nor is it borne of jealousy. Korea’s Internet monoculture has been a subject of concern here for some time and remains an issue. In a recently published book, Kim Ki-chang, a professor at Koryo University, says that Korea’s Internet environment is so unsound that nothing like it can be found in any other country in the world.

What is the problem? For one thing, accessing many Korean websites requires jumping through hoops not found anywhere else in the world. This may mean installing unfamiliar software programs, one to ensure secure access, another to protect against keystroke tracking, another for personal firewall protection, and on top of that, an antivirus program, all to be able to do some banking online. Nowhere else are websites so complicated and inconvenient.

It is also a uniquely Korean peculiarity that the programs needed for access to secure websites are compatible only with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Many are based on the ActiveX framework from Microsoft. And while there exist other technologies that perform the same function, none are in use in Korea. As a result, web browsers such as Firefox used by over 20 percent of users worldwide have no presence here.

Not much new here that has not been covered by me in the past but it is news to me that Kim Keechang has published a book on this topic.

Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture

Last week the Korea Times had a long piece on the unique issues around browser security and encryption technologies in Korea, Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture, which did not reference my original article, the cost of monoculture, but is updating the issues I raised in early 2007.

A few choice quotes:

But the land of ubiquitous broadband, feature-happy “smart” phones and ultra-cool computing devices doubles as a crusty regime where Linux, Firefox, Chrome and Opera users can’t bank or purchase products online, and where Mac users buy Windows CDs to prevent their devices being reduced to fashion items.

The bizarre coexistence of advanced hardware and an outdated user environment is a result of the country’s overreliance on the technology of Microsoft, the U.S. software giant that owns the Korean computing experience like a fat kid does a cookie jar.

Critics say the country would end up paying dearly for allowing a Microsoft monoculture to take hold, with consumers deprived of the freedom to choose newer and better products and the Web industry seeing its innovation compromised.

(Anyone want to send me a Steve Ballmer with cookie jar photoshop masterpiece? 🙂 )

The article goes on to cover a lot of the issues affecting web users in Korea and how many valiant efforts have gone into trying to affect change, most significantly the 3 lawsuits that Dr. Keechang Kim has brought against various Korean policy-making bodies, without success.

The newest effort of the open web community in Korea is, an effort to push/educate banking institutions in Korea to change their practices as many believe it is these consumer-facing services which are key to making real change happen for an open web in Korea.

Mozilla is committed to supporting the Koreans who are pushing for a competitive truly open web in Korea. If there is something that we should be doing in Korea to further support open web efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me or leave a comment with your thoughts.

I, for one, look forward to a day when anyone in Korea can use any modern browser on any major consumer computer operating system to bank, purchase goods/services online, trade stocks, etc. without the need for a browser plugin.

Asia-related links I am reading

China’s censorship arms race escalates – Excellent coverage on Internet censorship in Mainland China by Rebecca Mackinnon.

Why and How Facebook should come to Southeast Asia – Bernard Leong’s excellent treatise on Facebook in SE Asia. If he wasn’t running his own SNS, Facebook should hire Bernard 😉

Google Losing in China as New Users Go to Baidu – Google losing search market share in China.

Forbes: The Man Who’s Beating Google – Long portrait of Robin Li, Founder & CEO of Baidu.

Japan’s PPC ad market will reach $2 billion by 2013 – Decent, but it could/should be bigger.

E-Commerce Is Getting Chinese to Loosen Their Purse Strings – NYT on ecommerce trends in China. Ecommerce and the related Internet advertising to support ecommerce will be key to a more vibrant web in China.

South Korea Approves Sale of Apple’s iPhone – Channy has been waiting for this day for a long time 🙂

South Korea Clears Way for iPhone Sales – No one has still explained how S. Koreans are going to do anything on the iPhone that requires a secure transaction if no Korean web services support SSL.

Vietnam’s rebounding economy – V not yet for victory – Economist on Vietnam’s macroeconomic challenges.

Software piracy costs Vietnam $275 million every year – Vietnam has done well with open source software but could do a lot more.

Want to live like Commons people?
Joi Ito talks about Creative Commons, Twitter, and the White House – Guardian UK interviews Joi Ito.

Future Web Forum 2009 – Sept. 4 – Seoul

Channy Yun of the Mozilla Korea community tells me that the Future Web Forum 2009 event is this Friday, September 4th, in Seoul. Channy will be speaking about Firefox 3.5 and while Joone Hur will be speaking about the current state of Fennec (see event program).

Last year Mitchell Baker and I spoke at this event which was scheduled alongside the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Internet.  Vint Cerf and Mitchell both keynoted the event last year.

If you are in Seoul this Friday, don’t miss this event as it is one of the few events which showcases browsers other than IE in Korea.

challenges for the iPhone in Korea

Bear with me here as this is more of an Open Web issue and less a Firefox issue.

iPhone in Korea
iphone on sale in korea!

As many of you know if you had read my 2007 post on the cost of monoculture, (Slashdotted and Digged to the front page) or the update on the cost of monoculture, you know that South Korea is alone in the world as a nation that does not use TLS/SSL for online transaction encryption. What that means in practice is that 99% of South Koreans use IE because they cannot do any secure transaction online (i.e. Internet banking, stock trading, ecommerce, e-government, etc.) without a Microsoft Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer web browser.

So I read with some interest recently when I saw that KT (Korea Telcom) and maybe SK Telecom (?) is probably going to launch the iPhone 3GS in Korea soon: IPhone Has Mobile Operators Punching Calculators. The question that immediately came to mind is this:

if South Korean websites cannot do any secure transaction without ActiveX, which is not supported on the iPhone’s Mobile Safari browser, what use is the iPhone in Korea? What good is a mobile browser on the iPhone in Korea if you cannot do any secure transaction with it?

This detail has not been covered by any of the media that has been covering the potential for the iPhone in Korea.  I would very much appreciate any comments from South Koreans on how the iPhone can be successful in Korea if it cannot be used for any secure transactions.  Or does this mean that Korean web services will start implementing support for SSL?  Will the iPhone break open the IE-dominated web of Korea?

My friend Changwon Kim thinks that it may have to do with the fact that the Korean carriers will get little-to-no benefit from users who buy iPhones because all of the purchases on the iPhone will be at iTunes or the Apple App Store.

Out of fear to become “dumb bit pipes”, Korean wireless carriers have been working so hard to transform themselves into digital content empires by acquiring content companies and building a tight control over the content value chain. But iPhone is all about getting out of carrier value chain: web browsing on WiFi networks or App Store downloads have nothing to do with carriers. So the fact that the carriers haven’t yet fully recouped their massive content investment might be the true reason, or at least part of the reason, why Korea still doesn’t have an iPhone yet.

I’m very curious to see what the reaction will be to the iPhone in Korea when it launches. Especially the part where Korean users won’t be able to do any of the things they normally do with their laptops or desktop PCs such as buy stocks, online banking, – anything that requires a secure transaction.

Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

Ancient proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Surprising news from South Korea – Google and Yahoo working together.

The Korea Times: Google, Yahoo United in Map Services.

This would be unheard of anywhere else in the world where Google and Yahoo are the fiercest of competitors. However in Korea, where Naver is the market leader (75% market share), and Daum second, Google and Yahoo are not relevant for most Korean web users (with perhaps the exception of Flickr, which is available in Hangul, and YouTube. UPDATE: not even YouTube is popular in Korea.)

The two global giants have been stressing the need for creating an “open environment” in Web services, obviously to compete with Naver’s massive walled garden, and Google Korea managing director Lee Won-jin said his company’s partnership with Yahoo is an extension of those movements.

“Korean Web portals have a reputation for their closed services, and this has been hurting innovation in the Korean Internet industry,” Lee said.

“The sharing of content between us and Yahoo could mark an important first step toward an open Web environment in the Korean Internet sector and inspire innovation,” he said.

Personally, I think the fact that there is only 1 web browser used in Korea is a larger issue than anything related to specific content.  How do you launch next-generation web-based applications if the only browser you can code for is IE6/7?  For example, maybe you have a new mapping application that has embedded videos (where have I heard this before?) but tests show that the service is significantly slower in Internet Explorer, even the shiny newest version. As a web/web apps developer you know there are browsers that are significantly faster or more standards-compliant or have add-ons functionality but your users in Korea can’t use anything but IE, because nothing in Korea works besides IE for any website that requires a secure connection.

So Korea, which was the earliest nation to launch real broadband, is now stuck in a sea of Microsoft-only operating systems and software.  What kind of Internet is it when you can have 1 Gbps broadband in Korea with no choice of operating system or web browser?

If Korean Internet businesses were truly interested in an “open environment” in Korea, they would work together to change the monoculture of the web browser in KoreaMicrosoft Windows and Internet Explorer That Koreans are forced to use a particular computer operating system and web browser for the Internet is the true “walled garden” of Korea.

98.7% Internet Explorer in South Korea

Danny Kim at TechnoKimchi has new browser share numbers in South Korea. It’s pretty ugly.

IE: 98.66% Korean Browser Market Share

98.66% IE in Korea

If that is not a defacto monopoly (especially when you consider the market share that other browsers have elsewhere in the world), then I don’t know what is.

Background information on why S. Korea is an all-Microsoft, all-Internet Explorer nation is available on older posts on my blog including, the cost of monoculture, update on the cost of monoculture in Korea.

I hope to be able to write another update for 2008 before the end of this year. Whether I can be more positive than I have been in the past is yet to be determined.

WIPI in Korea or non-tariff barriers to mobile competition

Last year I wrote about the de-facto monopoly of Microsoft Internet Explorer in South Korea (Slashdot, Digg, etc.) Everyone I tell this story to in the Internet industry, who is not South Korean, is amazed and surprised by such a reality.

Now I hear that the South Korean government’s Mobile Platform Special Subcommittee of the Korea Wireless Internet Standardization Forum (KWISF), in an attempt to create competition (or some say block foreign competition) in the mobile application space, required a Korean-developed middleware standard on all Korean mobile phones, WIPI or (Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability), which effectively closed the Korean market to international competition.

I first heard about WIPI only a few days ago, on Channy Yun’s Korea Crunch weblog. Then Changwon Kim blogged about the negative impact of WIPI in Korea at Web 2.0 Asia: Korean government mulling over scraping WIPI altogether.

Here are some other recent choice quotes about the impact of WIPI in South Korea:

The Korea Times: Wireless Operators in Talks With Nokia, Apple Over Phones

“The one remaining trade barrier for foreign handset makers is “WIPI,” or “Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability,” a software standard that the government mandated in 2005 for all mobile-phone makers planning to deliver Internet access on handsets.

With Korea accounting for just 2 percent of the world’s mobile-phone market, it was hard to convince the foreign handset makers to produce WIPI-enabled phones not usable elsewhere.

However, the KCC, the country’s telecommunications regulator, is now considering scrapping the WIPI requirements, amid criticism that maintaining a fixed software standard would mean little when the global industry trend leans toward the adoption of open-source operating systems for wireless platforms. Korea signals lifting of handset barrier

But faced with criticism that the regulation restricts Korean consumers’ choices, President Lee Myung-bak’s newly elected government has expressed a willingness to soften the WIPI rule, potentially allowing foreign handset makers a way into the Korean market.

The WIPI rule, designed to protect local companies, has been the biggest entry barrier against foreign handset makers,” says Stan Jung, analyst at Woori Investment & Securities. “Once the rule is spiked, global companies will actively seek to enter the market. Then, Samsung and LG will find it hard to maintain their dominance.

The Korea Times: IT Regulation Prevents Korean Access to iPhone

The presence of two of the world’s largest mobile phone makers ― Samsung and LG ― has encouraged the [Korean] government to shut its door to foreign-made mobile phones by using non-tariff barriers. Along with iPhone, the Nokia, Blackberry and Sony-Ericsson phones are virtually not allowed to be sold here.

Korea is not ready,” said a manager of Apple Korea Tuesday. “We have no comment on iPhone matter in Korea, also, there is no plan to release any further information about launching of iPhone in Korea”

In 2003, the government imposed a unique software platform called WIPI on mobile phones on sale, hoping that this industrial standard can save firms from unnecessary competition and overlapping investment. But as phone technologies advance, this regulation has become a stiff trade barrier for foreign makers who think it is not cost-efficient to redesign their products only for the South Korean market.

Digital Daily by John Paczkowski: South Korea: No iPhone for YOU!

“And for Apple (AAPL), as well as other handset manufacturers like Nokia (NOK) and Sony Ericsson (ERIC), redesigning their devices to do so is a costly proposition. So costly, in fact, that they’d rather not bother.

ZDNet Korea: Seems like WIPI is out. Can Korea become a global financial hub without it?

According to Hong [a Korean mobile software developer], Korean handset makers obviously do not want to abolish WIPI, in their fear of shrinking market share. Fortunately for them, the effort for the restoration of WIPI is still ongoing. As Hong said, developing WIPI into an open-source style is considered, if it helps the country’s IT industry.

The problem with thinking that open-sourcing WIPI will help is that the license for the WIPI software is not the core problem. None of the non-Korean mobile handset manufacturers want to deal with WIPI, whether it is open source or not, because the costs for developing and maintaining a fork for just one nation is not worth the effort (unless you’re Qualcomm it seems.)

This is now the second time that I have learned that Korea has developed a standard, unique to Korea, which has effectively closed the market to competition (the first being the pc desktop web browser market, of which there is no Korean-domestic browser, so they make do with Internet Explorer.)

As Ian Fleming said in Goldfinger, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action.” (Note, my point here is to say that the S. Korean government seems to make active decisions to limit competition in Korea, which in turn benefits the domestic businesses who are closest to the market.)

I’ll close with Dame Shirley Bassey, because she should always be given the last word.

Cisco and China; Linux in Korea; community survey; JUI in Tokyo

Intel® C++ Software Development Tool Suite 1.0 for Linux* OS Supporting Mobile Internet Devices
Free IDE for mobile linux development.

OECD Broadband Portal – Press release
Data on broadband growth.

Firebug 1.2 beta for Firefox 3 RC 1
Works with Firefox 3 RC 1! Might have a few bugs but please check it out.

Q&A with Isaac Mao on tech blogging in China: Censorship, and opportunity
Isaac was very helpful when we visited Shanghai in 2007 before we opened the Mozilla Beijing office.

Cisco Systems Denies Online Censorship Role in China
Cisco internal documents show otherwise.

Cisco Leak: ‘Great Firewall’ of China Was a Chance to Sell More Routers
Not surprised; very disappointed.

Cisco saw opportunity in “Golden Shield” to help fight criminals…and dissidents
Must-read from Rebecca MacKinnon on Cisco-firewall-gate.

Read and be depressed with me.

China’s All-Seeing Eye
Naomi Klein for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Open-Source File Format Is to Be a Part of Microsoft Office
Embrace & extend.

Report: JUI (Javascript User Interface) 2008 conference in Tokyo
Akky and Serkan have made Asiajin a must-read in 2008.

Firefox 3 Usability Survey
Isriya Paireepairit of the Mozilla community in Thailand would like your help with a survey he is working on for his university studies.

Metagold: A Research Blog about Nico Nico Douga
Fascinating English-language look into the hot video web service of Japan. Correspondent’s Diary – Tokyo food
Excellent Tokyo food blog.

Linux Foundation Opens Korean Office
The LiMoKr must be targeting enterprises or just the server market because the Linux desktop is dead in the water in Korea without support for SEED and Korea’s unique Windows/ActiveX-based encryption method.


.jp Registry report 2007

Lower fees, more coordination within Asian registrars, expansion of JP DNS servers, DNSSEC.  Personally, I am still on the fence with regards to i18nized domains.

viral ads in China, the year in browsers, cute corporate mascots, IDN

  • The Mozillagumi’s 9th annual party will be held in Tokyo on May 31st. Presentations by John Daggett and David Tenser of Mozilla, Channy Yun of Mozilla Korea, Takagi-san of AIST, Nakamoto-san of, and a number of others. This event is free and open to the public but requires signup iirc.
  • We object to “Restriction of Harmful Information on Network Bill”
    The Wide Project, (a non-profit that works to promote the Internet in Japan), takes a stand against recent movements by the government in Japan to increase censorship of content on the Internet (a futile effort led by a clueless politician who wishes to blame the medium and not the users.)