Digital Media in South Korea

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South Korea flag.jpg
South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea, is located in East Asia, at the tip of the Korean peninsula. The capital city is Seoul, which is also its largest city. The country has predominantly mountainous terrain and houses a population of 48,754,657 people.[1] South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. It is currently the world's 13th largest economy (in terms of purchasing power parity). As the world's 8th largest exporter[2], its export production focuses on semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships and petrochemicals.[3]


Digital Literacy


1. Ranking in Asia

Top 12 Asian Countries with Highest Penetration Rates

South Korea is one of the most connected nations in the world with high broadband penetration rates and a tech savvy population. She has the world’s fastest average Internet connection speed at 2,202 KBps. This is almost four times the world's average and is faster than Great Britain, Turkey, Spain and Australia combined! [4] It is therefore not surprising that she has approximately 39 million internet users and boasts one the Asia’s highest internet penetration rates of 80.9%.[5]

Internet Usage Rates in Korea, Credits to Internet World Stats[6]

South Korea's high internet penetration rate can be attributed to the government's strong infrastructural support. The rapid increase of internet users over the past ten years is evidence for that. The government is constantly looking to upgrade the wireless network and have put plans in place to increase the speed of internet connection of every household in South Korea to 1 gigabit per second by 2012.[7]

2. Demographics of Internet Users

An overview of South Korea's Internet Usage Rate by Gender, Age, Household Income, Occupation and Education Levels.

Demographics of Internet Users, adapted from [8]

Gender ratios for internet usage in South Korea are relatively even. Out of the total number of internet uses, men make up 57.7% and women make up 42.3%.

60% of internet users fall between 25 and 44 years of age. Significantly, internet users aged between 55-64 make up only 4.6% of internet users.

79.5% of workers in Korea use the Internet and the occupations are broken down into these as follows, professionals/managers, office workers, service/sales, production workers, students and housewives.

Education Level
College graduates are the heaviest users of Internet followed by high school graduates, middle school graduates and elementary and below.

3. Internet usage patterns

Most internet users access the Internet at least once a day, spending an average of 14.7 hours weekly with almost half of this group (48.9%) spending more than 14 hours or more.
People mainly access the Internet from home, followed by at work.
We also found that the Internet is mainly used for getting information or data followed by engaging in leisure activities.

Duration, Location and Reasons for Internet Usage, Credits to KISA [9]


Overview Asia-Pacific holds 56% of the worldwide mobile users globally. The evolving nature of mobile phones and the high adoption rate of mobile phone plans in Asia have made mobile devices a key influence in molding the digital landscape.
South Korea is again at the forefront of this change. With a dense and world class infrastructure of wireless networks, the country which global mobile phone powerhouses such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics and world most technologically savvy populations call home has been at the forefront of such a shift. Figures show that South Korea has the highest Mobile Phone Use Penetration in Asia-Pacific and will maintain that lead for the next five years.
Mobile operators in South Korea have provided a wide variety of services to users on the mobile Internet platform. Services that allow mobile users to subscribe and customize services to their liking and to access the Internet whenever they desire, have been introduced. These services are not only accessible through mobile terminals but also through other devices such as PDAs and PCs. [10]

Mobile Internet Users by Gender and Age, credits to KISA [11]

Smartphones and Mobile Internet Usage

South Korea has also been a key driving force in the increase in smart phone shipments to Asia. LG and Samsung have been investing heavily in smartphones and increased efforts to market their products within Korea. Smartphone uptakes have been rapid for the past two years and will continue to see upward growth over the next few years. The figures below provide an overview of the smartphone market in South Korea.

Smartphone Trends in South Korea, credits to KCC, ROA Consulting [12]

For insights on the growth of South Korea's mobile market, here is a great article from Reuters discussing how Facebook, Google, and other foreign competitors making inroads to the South Korea market because of mobile technology.

The smartphone market exploded since the introduction of the Apple iPhone into the market from a mere 7.5 million units in 2008 to a staggering 16.5 million units in 2009; a 220% increase in just a year. Samsung is still leading the pack with its Android phone due to its aggressive marketing in Korea but the iPhone is fast catching up. Below are the 7 top issues happening in the Korean mobile market in 2011. [13]

  1. Smartphones soaring to the 20 million mark
  2. Predicted increase in tablet sales
  3. Mobile VoIP trending
  4. Beginning of Long Term Evolution era which is a major candidate for 4G technology
  5. Boost of support & usage for Mobile Cloud Computing
  6. Fast growing mobile ad market
  7. Spread of the use of Social Networking (SNS)

Mobile Internet Usage-Patterns and Reasons
(A) Demographics for Mobile Internet Uses

Mobile Internet Users by Gender and Age, credits to KISA [14]

(B) Reasons for Mobile Internet Usage

Reasons for Mobile Internet Useage, credits to NIDA [15]

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Infrastructural Advancements

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) announced its plans of investing $34 trillion Won including $32.8 trillion Won from the private sector in the country's IT infrastructure.[16] This plan aims to accommodate for future demand it expects from the broadcasting and communications services. The government foresees the investment will attract private sector investment and eventually create more jobs to boost the economy.

IT Infrastructural Changes In South Korea by 2012

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Digital Media Platforms


The South Korean online community use a multitude and array of digital tools and channels for their online activities. Notable mentions in the activities shown below are the use of Social Networking Sites (SNS) and online trade. Recent figures reveal that twitter users in Korea have exceeded 3 million and 67% of Korean CEOs believe that "SNS will change the way of communication", it is also the most used channel to communicate with employees and customers among Korean CEOs. [17] The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry also found out that 60% of people in their 20s have used social commerce. Below are some shortlisted examples of popular channels digitally connected South Koreans use.

Forms of digital influence in South Korea. Credits to: Ogilvy, 360 Digital Influence

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South Korea is home to one of the largest blogging communities in the world, second only to China.[18]

Popularity of blogging over different parts of the world, credits to:Global State of Social Media in 2011,Global Web Index

Blog Hosting Sites

Popular blog hosting sites include:
1. Naver Blogs
2. Daum blogs
3. Egloos
4. Blogin
5. Tistory
6. Textcube
7. Yahoo!Korea blog

Naver Blogs and Daum Blogs are the two most popular blog hosting sites in South Korea, both belongs to the larger Naver and Daum net giants respectively.

Some interesting blogs to follow are

1. Korea's Tech Opinion and Commentary - CNET Asia
2. A Popular Fashion Blog - STREETFSN
3. 10 Magazine - Blog of the Month

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Twitter Use in Korea, credits to Daumsoft[19]

1. Twitter - Twitter has had a phenomenal impact in South Korea with users having an active user rate two times higher than the world average.[20] Twitter subscriber growth increased tenfold in 2010 while the number of tweets have also increased significantly. This was largely due to the advent of smart phones and handheld computers. There are currently 3,017,625 estimated Twitter users in Korea. [21] 44% of Twitter use is through smartphones, of which iPhone takes the largest share, 69%.
Similar to the global use of Twitter, South Korean tweets focus largely on celebrities, entertainment and politics. Along with the many Korean celebrities who have large followings on their Twitter pages, there are a number of politicians, corporations and government offices that use Twitter in combination with other social networking sites to better communicate with their constituents, consumers and the public. As of January 19, 2011, Twitter has expanded to offer a Korean language service, making Korean the seventh language available for support on Twitter.

The different brands of microblogs in South Korea

2. me2DAY - Owned by Naver. Popularly dubbed as the “Twitter of South Korea”, me2DAY is popular among South Korean celebrities including G-Dragon from Big Bang and Sandara Park from 2NE1.[22] As of September 25, 2011, the number of me2day users has outstripped the number of domestic Facebook and Twitter users. [23]

3. Nate Connect - Owned by Nate. Connect focuses on communication between people users are already acquainted with. Connect consolidates existing buddy list contacts from NateOn messenger, an instant messaging service, and contacts database from Cyworld to enable communication. According to SK Communications, blog platforms other than Cyworld will be made compatible for use with Connect. [24]

4. Yozm - Owned by Daum. Allows users with similar tastes and lifestyles to socialize through entering personal information under different stated categories. [25]

5. sfoon - Owned by Nurien. Connects Twitter, me2DAY, Flickr, Youtube accounts into one viewing convenience.

6. itgling - Owned by Mediare. Allows users to socialize with others who share similar web surfing/usage patterns rather than choosing to follow friends.

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Social Networking Sites

Popular sns sites in Korea.jpg


Many of the South Korean social networking sites overlap from being a micro-blog to a homepage; therefore, previously discussed micro-blog sites such as me2DAY, Yozm and Nate Connect serve as social networking sites in South Korea as well. Local sites include Cyworld, Connect, me2DAY, Yozm while global sites include Facebook and Twitter.
In Korea, there are 10.93 million active social networkers. Of these, only 33% are content sharers. This is still relatively low as compared to other countries such as USA with 51% or Philippines with 60%. [26]

SNS usage among internet users.jpg

SNS users in Korea & ramifications.jpg

Cyworld is South Korea's leading social networking community with 25 million members since its inception in 1999. Cyworld is owned by Nate and operated by SK Communications, a subsidiary of SK Telecom. It functions as a hybrid between a blog and a personal homepage, and the subscribers’ personal home pages is referred to as ‘minihompy’. Cyworld users are very diverse and range anywhere from elementary students to middle-aged adults. However, recently, some people are getting bored of Cyworld and do not bother updating their sites. Some are making the switch to Facebook. Cyworld admits it has taking a wrong strategy by providing localized services in each region. However, with globalization, subscribers need to have a common platform for their friends from all around the world. As such, Cyworld plans to take a different approach; by expanding globally. They have spread over China, Japan, Europe and USA in recent years.[27]

Within South Korea, Facebook’s prominence lags behind Cyworld with only slightly more than 4 million users. The Facebook penetration of the South Korean online population lies at 10.17%. Compared with Facebook’s other international offices, South Korea is one of the fewer countries where other local social networking sites dominate. However, Facebook usage in South Korea is growing tremendously with 44% of its users within the 25-34 age range and 32% within the 18-24 age range. [28] Recently in August 2011, Facebook in Korea experienced the highest number of monthly visitors to the site and has beaten Cyworld for the first time.[29]

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Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) / Forums

1. Daum Agora A popular web portal in South Korea. Includes a popular free web-based e-mail, messaging service, forums, shopping and news. The popularity of Daum stems from the range of services it offers, but also from the fact that it was the first South Korean web portal of significant size. Its popularity started when it merged with the then most popular e-mail service, or After the merge, Daum started the forum service, DaumCafe, which brought its firm status in the market. The term cafe and even Internet cafe (Different from what is supposed to refer to in Western usage) is now used as the synonym for "Internet forum" in Korean.

2. DC Inside DC Inside is frequently noted under the initiali, DC, and it functions as an Internet forum. Initially established as a community dedicated to digital cameras and photography, it has now met broad notoriety in South Korea due to its unique nature.

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Instant Messaging


The different messenger services of South Korea

South Koreans use an array of instant messaging tools such as NateOn, KakaoTalk, Buddybuddy, Sayclub Tachy and MSN Messenger. Outside of work, many teenagers prefer to use SMS and instant messaging to communicate. [30]

NateOn, provided by Nate, is the most popular instant messaging client in Korea. In 2005, NateOn overtook MSN Messenger in the number of South Korean users. According to a study by SK Communications, NateOn has 25 million users as of 2008. [31] NateOn’s success over its Western counterpart came about because of its functionality and value-added services. For instance, money can be transferred to existing contacts without even knowing their account number. [32]

Kakao Talk is a mobile messenger that works on Apple's iPhone and Android-based smartphones. It allows users anywhere in the world to chat one-to-one or in a group for free. Message arrivals are instantly notified with Push Alert and users can send various multimedia such as pictures, videos, and contact telephone numbers as well. After its launch in March 2010, it has seen downloads by up to 6.6 million smart phone users out of the full 7.8 million smart phone user population, [33] with a total of 8 million users worldwide. [34]

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Video-Sharing Websites


The different video-sharing websites used in Korea
  • Youtube - The South Korean population uses mainly the Youtube, a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. [35]

  • Naver Video- There are other alternative channels that South Koreans use as well such as Naver video which belongs to Naver.[36]

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Search Engines

The top five search engines in Korea are Naver, Google, Daum, Yahoo and Nate.

Top 5 Search Engines in Korea[37]

The breakdown of the statistics as of September 2011 are:
1. Naver - 63.5%
2. Google - 29.67%
3. Daum - 3.41%
4. Yahoo!Korea - 2.52%
5. Nate - 0.53%

Popularly referred to as the “Google of Korea”, Naver is run by NHNCorp (an Internet content service provider and online games operator head-quartered) in South Korea. Naver functions similarly to Google and Yahoo with information search in all areas such as music, video, book, mobile and multimedia. [38] Using Naver tends to give more accurate Korean data and results found are more refined. [39]

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The three largest local web analytics vendors in South Korea belong to[40]:

AGB Nielsen Media Research is another local vendor that offers the combined service of TAM (Television Audience Measurement), AIS (Advertising Information Service), print readership and ad-hoc media related research.[41]

Webtrends, an American company founded in Oregon in 1993, has currently expanded its services to South Korea. It offers services such as social media measurement, paid-search optimization and connecting the online and offline data silos scattered throughout organizations. However, it is still smaller as compared to the other local vendors in South Korea.[42]

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  • Location-based Services (LBS)

The location-based services market in South Korea has seen a sudden spur, especially so since the introduction of the iPhone in late November of 2009.[43] Location-based services (LBS) allows retailers to market to smartphone users based on their location. With this technology, companies can offer customized information and even sales or discounts to a particular user. According to a study by EI Marketing Research Corp., the South Korea LBS market is estimated to have a total spend of $348 million in 2013. [44] To leverage on this trend, the government is aiming to help startups and app developers by easing the regulations on LBS and improving the precision of the service. [45]

Ticket Monster, credits here
  • Social Commerce

One of the most active business models in this area in Korea involves social commerce, which incorporates location-based technology and social networking services. Companies engaged in this area of the retail industry also are offering special discounts and benefits for users who sign up for these services.

The biggest local social commerce company is Ticket Monster, which was established in May of 2009. More than 55,000 members have joined the site, which attracts 300,000 visitors per day.[46]

  • Augmented Reality Technology

South Korean telecommunications firms, such as SK Telecom, are particularly interested in augmented reality technology, which involves enhancing real-world images with computer-generated ones.

  • Quick Response (QR) Code Technology

Other companies are focusing on quick response (QR) code technology, which essentially is a type of barcode you can scan with your smartphone. Discount Korean retailer E-Mart, for example, includes QR codes in its advertisements so consumers can quickly pull up information on various products via their smartphones.

  • Online Shopping
    Gmarket, credits Gmarket

E-commerce is majorly popular in South Korea and according to a study of visitor traffic by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, user traffic for mobile phone-related shopping malls increased by 192.3 percent between July and October compared 2010 compared to in 2009. In terms of traffic volume, “comprehensive” online malls that sold a wide range of products such as GMarket and Auction and the online arms of brick-and-mortar retailers such as Lotte and Shinsegae Mall, were found to host the largest share with an average of 21.85 million visitors per month.[47]

Honey, it's me! smartphone application. Credits here

  • Development of Artificial Intelligence

"The increasing number of nuclear, nonextended families and the growth of the Internet industry lead people to seek affection in the online world", says Kim Bong-seop from the Korean National Information Society Agency. Gartner Inc., an information-technology research company, revealed in a report that in 2015 about 10% of friends on online services will be displaced by non-humans. It said one-in-10 friends on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter will be automated conversation partners, thanks to development of artificial intelligence.

There's now a current rise of smartphone applications that draws on the use of artificial intelligence. The most recent is the use of a virtual girlfriend in an application called 'Honey, it's me!' where the app calls the smartphone owner three to four times a day and treats him to a video conversation with his virtual girlfriend, a female character named Mina.[48]

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Traditional Media Platforms

In this section, we included brief descriptions of Broadcasting and Cable Television, the television audience, publishing, radio, regulators of these channels as well as the advertising industry in South Korea.

Broadcasting & Cable TV

According to BBC, TV is influential and the major terrestrial networks, including market leaders Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), command the lion's share of viewing and advertising. Most South Koreans subscribe to digital cable and satellite.

Network TV news broadcasts are nationalist in outlook, friendlier to North Korea and more critical of Japan and the U.S. than the big newspapers.

South Korean TV soaps are popular across the region, including in China. They are part of the "Korean Wave" - the export of South Korean popular culture across Asia.

The government has stepped up pressure on TV channels that are seen as over-critical, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) noted in 2010. Nevertheless, South Korea is one of the few Asian nations where there is real news pluralism, it added.

The country is a pioneer of TV via mobile devices and the Internet (IPTV). The government has "put in place the means to scrutinise online news", says RSF. Scores of web users, including a well-known blogger, have been arrested following complaints from the government or by individuals.

Information from The Museum of Broadcast Communications suggests the following:

The Korean Television Audience

Reasons for watching television[49]:

  1. To get information
  2. To understand other opinions and ways of life
  3. To get education and knowledge
  4. To relax

Average television sets owned by each household: 1.6
Average time spent on television: 3 hours (weekdays), 5 hours (weekends)
Most popular time slot: 9:00 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.
Highest rated program: 9:00 P.M. evening news
A poll conducted by KBS shows men watch more television than women. On weekends there were no differences in television viewing among age groups. The evening news is watched by 70% of adult audiences in Korea.

Below is the breakdown on the preferences of television audience with regards to show categories:
South Korea television audience preference.png

Television (in order of significance):[50]

Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) logo.gif Korea Broadcasting System (KBS)
Public, operates two networks; web pages in English
Munhwa Broadcasting Company.png Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
Public, operates two networks; web pages in English
Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) logo.png Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)
Education Broadcasting System (EBS) logo.png Education Broadcasting System (EBS)
Public, educational programmes
Inchon Television (iTV) logo.png Inchon Television (iTV)]
Private, Inchon-based
Jeonju Television Corporation (JTV) logo.gif Jeonju Television Corporation (JTV)
Commercial, Jeonju-based
American Forces Network (AFN) Korea logo.jpeg American Forces Network (AFN) Korea
TV for US military, also watched by many Koreans
Skylife logo.gif SkyLife
Digital satellite TV operator

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Newspaper readership is high and there are more than 100 national and local dailies. The press is often critical of the government. Many newspapers are controlled by industrial conglomerates. In Korea, like many other countries, newspaper subscribers are decreasing.

The three newspapers with the widest circulations -- which together account for about 70% of readership -- are privately owned. The papers are conservative in outlook with stories that take a hard line on North Korea and advocate strong ties with Japan and the U.S.[51]

The press (in order of significance):[52]

Chosun Ilbo logo.png Chosun Ilbo
English Language Pages
Dong-a Ilbo logo.gif Dong-a Ilbo
English Language Pages
Korea Times logo.png Korea Times
English-language pages
Hangyore Sinmun logo.gif Hangyore Sinmun
English-language pages
JoongAng Ilbo logo.jpeg JoongAng Ilbo
English-language pages
Hankook Ilbo logo.gif Hankook Ilbo
Korea Daily News logo.gif Korea Daily News
Korea Economic Daily logo.gif Korea Economic Daily
Korea Herald logo.png Korea Herald
Munhwa Ilbo logo.png Munhwa Ilbo

News agency:

Yonhap News Agency logo.gif Yonhap News Agency
English-language pages

Magazine News Media:

The Economist logo.gif Economist

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Radio broadcasts in South Korea are mainly done in the Korean language with few English stations available on both AM and FM channels.

Radio stations:

Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) logo.gif Korea Broadcasting System (KBS)
Public, operates six networks
KBS World Radio logo.gif KBS World Radio
External broadcaster, operated by KBS
Munhwa Broadcasting Company.png Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
Public, operates MBC Radio and music-based MBC FM
Seoul Broadcasting System logo.png Seoul Broadcasting System
Operates SBS-FM
Christian Broadcasting System (CBS) logo.jpeg Christian Broadcasting System (CBS)
Christian network
-- Buddhist Broadcasting System (BBS)
A Buddhist network and Far East Broadcasting Corporation (FEBC) also has religious content
Far East Broadcasting Corporation (FEBC) logo.gif Far East Broadcasting Corporation (FEBC)
American Forces Network (AFN) Korea logo.jpeg American Forces Network (AFN) Korea
Radio for US military
Tbs eFM logo.jpeg tbs eFM
Seoul, English-language

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Korean Cable TV Association (KCTA) logo.png Korea Communications Commission (KCC)


In 2010, South Korea’s media industry had a strong year in advertising spending, according to an annual survey by the nation’s biggest ad agency, Cheil Worldwide. There was an increase of spending across all media, with traditional print and broadcast having the least gains. [53]

There is a jump of 16.5% to 8.45 trillion won last year, or about $7.5 billion. Advertising spending dropped 6.9% in 2009 due to cutbacks in marketing that businesses made in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. Ad spending in 2010 was 8.4% higher than it was in 2008.

However, ad spending on newspapers and radio in 2010 was still below 2008. Ad spending on magazines and broadcast TV was barely above 2008 levels, even with the help of the Winter Olympics and World Cup, events that are a magnet for advertisers trying to reach mass audiences.

South Korea’s media industry accounts for less than 1% of the nation’s GDP, well below the size of media industries in other developed countries. That’s due in large part to government control of advertising rates and purchases, which are funneled through two agencies that have been around since the days of military dictatorship in the 1980s. Looking ahead to 2011, Cheil said ad spending could increase if the government follows through on promises to ease some of its regulations on the industry.

South Korea Ad Spending 2008 2009 2010.png

For more information on the latest South korea news feeds by categories, please see World News Report-South Korea

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Impacts of Digital Media


Digital Marketing

Integrated Digital Platforms
Increasingly, major South Korean companies such as Samsung, LG Electronics and Hyundai have begun to set up an integrated platform featuring their CEO blogs, corporate blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts in an attempt to communicate more personally with their customers[54] and espouse an image of being open and transparent.[55]

Cheil Worldwide - President and CEO, Nack Hoi Kim

1. CEO Personal Blogs

Cheil Worldwide is global marketing and communications company headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. It is the largest advertising agency in South Korea and manages international Korean brands such as Samsung Electronics. On this blog, Mr Kim shares his insights about the communications industry and uses it as a tool to communicate with his employees.

Right after Dreamwiz merged with blog servicing company, Intizen, Mr Lee set up his own blog to find out what bloggers really want from the blog service. Along with his personal views about the company’s new projects and businesses, he also provides reviews on gadgets on his blog. His blog is very popular among the power bloggers in South Korea.

2. Corporate Blogs
The way South Korean organizations use corporate blogging is affected by the nation's culture. South Koreans have larger power-distance index and a stronger uncertainty avoidance index compared to countries such as the USA. Therefore, most South Korean companies adopt a top-down corporate blogging strategy when it comes to the promotion of their corporate blogs, with message control as the rule of conduct. However, Korean corporate blogs are highly interactive offering rich multi-media functions such as music, avatars, flash and video. Furthermore, Korean corporate blogs frequently engage netizens and consumers in events such as competitions for user generated content prior to product launches. [56]

Converse UCC campaign in South Korea

Rise of Social Networking Service Advertising
Advertising on social networking services is poised to hit the big time in South Korea, with South Koreans fast recognizing the potential of its so-called ”one-man ads”. An ideal time, then, for the appearance of a new, streamlined ad service called AdbyMe, which promises to make it easier for Korean firms (or anyone else) to create and distribute ads via social networking services - primarily Facebook, Twitter and me2DAY. [57]

Leveraging on User Created Content (UCC)
Many companies and even the public sector currently make use of UCC or consumer generated media (CGM) in competitions to promote their products, brands and campaigns. In 2007, Converse Korea, reached out to netizens to create a promotional video featuring Converse sneakers. The winning UCC was then run on air on M-net, a popular music channel in Korea. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism also held a UCC event where participants were required to create a video which features tourism resources in Korea to promote tourism to foreigners outside of Korea.

Bringing Innovation to New Heights
International Supermarket brand TESCO demonstrated the possibilities of using smart phones to reach and attract the South Koreans to their stores without increasing the physical number of stores avialble. Through studies, they discovered that South Koreans were the 2nd most hardworking people in the world and being incredibly busy, weekly shopping was a dreaded task for them. TESCO created a virtual shopping mall in subway stations that looked exactly like what the real mall did and added QR codes to each product. Consumers could take a picture of the code with their smartphones and the product would automatically be added into their shopping cart, checked out and shipped to their homes. This idea propelled TESCO to be the largest online supermarket and a second offline. TESCO managed to tap on the high levels of mobile internet usage, technological expertise of the South Korean market to reach people at specific touch points and moments of receptivity (virtual store within the subway station where people are waiting).

Bringing Grocery Shopping to a whole new level

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Search Engine Optimization, Inc. provides a engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) service that aims to improve companies' online business presence in major search engines.'s clients include Yahoo! Korea, Samsung SDS, KOTRA, the Official websites run by Korean Government, and hundreds of other small & medium companies. The company has been certified with Google Advertising Professional, Yahoo! SEO and Microsoft MSVP.

They offer services such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Pay Per Click Advertising Management
  • Paid Inclusion Management
  • Feed Management
  • Press Release Services
  • Web Analytics


Privacy concerns.jpg

Privacy Concerns

1. Social Networking Sites

A study done by the Korea Information and Security Agency highlighted the dangers of overexposure to social networking sites with the personal information of users being vulnerable to strangers, advertisers and marketers. [58]

65.7% of South Korean Internet users use social networking sites. A poll by Microsoft found that 63% of Koreans use more than three different social networking sites. [59]

In South Korea, Kakao Talk, a popular mobile message service that works on Apple’s iPhone and Android-based smart phones, relaxed its privacy policy without notifying subscribers in October, causing a public uproar. It seems even more pertinent for South Korea given that their social networking service usage rate is higher than the world’s average, exposing them to even more threats of privacy intrusion. [60]

Tracking features of Oppa Midji? Credits to:Footman's Frothings

2. Location-based Applications

The application Oppa Midji? (“You trust oppa, right?”) allows users to keep track of their boyfriends or girlfriends’ locations via their smart phones. For the first two days of its operation, there was no safeguard against users to have their locational details to anyone else who had downloaded the application. The newer version of Oppa Midji now requires both parties to give their express permission. [61]

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Two major watershed events in modern day South Korean politics influenced by digital media could be seen in the 2008 Chotbul protest and the "Rohsamo" presidential campaign of 2002.

In the 2008 Chotbul protest in South Korea, it showed how real-time online and off-line interaction through the Internet and the mobile phone led to the participants’ online actions which proliferated against a background of the failure of representative system of politics and media.[62]

US beef imports protests in South Korea. Credits to: BBC in pictures

US Beef imports protest
On May 2 2008, more than 20,000 people gathered at Cheonggye plaza in Seoul and held a Chotbul cultural festival to protest against the negotiation of U.S. beef imports tainted by mad cow disease. The protest even called for the impeachment of President Lee Myung-bak who took office less than 3 months earlier. Chotbul protest consisted of real-time connections and interactions between online and protest sites mediated by debate bulletin boards, chatting rooms, sms messages, and especially live streamings.

The Chotbul protest against U.S. beef imports started with netizens’ self-mobilization and voluntary participation. However, it gradually extended to movements opposing the liberalization of public education, the cross-country canal project, the privatization of the public sectors and conservative media. The protest was marked by people’s creative use of Information Communication Technology(ICT) and media.[63]

Presidential Election 2002
Roh Moo-hyun’s dramatic victory on December 19, 2002 was enabled by the Internet. The Internet made available alternative sources of political information unfiltered by the conservative and often biased mass media. Rohsamo, a group of people who supported Roh Moo-hyun became the focal organizing structure around which the efforts of individual supporters were coordinated. Roh’s election would have been impossible had it not been for the nationwide broadband infrastructure and low costs for household high-speed Internet access.[64]

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Virtual Universities
South Korea has single-mode virtual universities that offer only ICT-based courses, specializing in lifelong learning and vocation education. This was been a deliberate strategy to prevent competition with established campus-based universities and also served as a platform to provide accessible distance education courses to the populations. Participating institutional experimented with various technologies (satellite broadcasting, videoconferencing) and a detailed criteria for establishing virtual universities was incorporated to the Lifelong Education Law.[65]
A Paperless Education
South Korea is looking to digitize education over the next few years. The government has announced a 2.2 trillion won (US$2 Billion) investment to convert all existing textbooks into digital content and develop cloud computing systems to provide and distribute digitized content to students. Electronic tablets are expected to replace paper-based textbooks by 2015. Already, students have been experimenting with digital textbooks on tablet-like Fujitsu PCs and Samsung Galaxy Tabs and interacting with teachers online through wireless networks.[66]

South Korea's Students, credits to The Associated Press


South Korea ranked #1 in the Global Innovation Index for large countries by the Boston Consulting Group, National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute. [67]

South Korea's economy relies heavily on international trade and its IT-related products account for almost one third of its total exports.In particular, the mobile telecommunication sector is a strategic trade commodity for South Korea to maintain its global market leadership for mobile telephony services and cell phone production.In a five year period from 2004 to 2008, the ETRI earned more than 254.8 billion South Korean won in technology royalties with a total of 1,294 cases of technology transfer.


The South Korean government allocates adequate resources towards the development of broadband,mobile and wireless technologies. In fact, the birthplace to several of Korea's technologies originated at the non-profit government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute(ETRI). Its objective is to develop basic and core technologies which subsequently sought to feed into new products by private companies.The South Korean government funds the ETRI – with budgets amounting to hundreds of million US dollar annually to focus on intensive IT research.

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High-tech Utopia.jpg
  • Digital Media City: High-tech Utopia

The South Korean government currently planning to complete a $25 billion hi-tech utopia in New Songdo, South Korea by 2015. The ubiquitous city (U-city) concept refers to a place where all major information systems such as residential, medical, business, governmental share data, where computers are built into houses, streets and office buildings.

"Korea has gathered the world's attention with its CDMA and mobile technologies (digital cellular standards). Now we need to prepare ourselves for the next market," said Mr. An, Chief Project Manager overseeing the project. Mr An believes the next market will be in radio-frequency identification (RFID) and for U-cities. South Korea's Ministry of Information and Communication has earmarked $297 million to build an RFID research center in New Songdo.

People from Seoul and other crowded South Korean cities are already seen applying for apartments and the planners are counting on enticing attractive businesses.

Mr. Kim, Vice President for strategy at New Songdo City Development stated that the project is a profit-generating model unlike other U-city projects. Songdo U-Life would charge building owners for facilities management and serve as a gateway to services. Its partners will test market services that require wireless data access everywhere or a common ID system without having to build anything themselves.[68]

Digital Media City Landmark Tower
Digital Media City Landmark Tower Credits to: World Architecture News

In addition, a digital media landmark tower is set to be build at the north of the Han River, Seoul. It have a stack effect and wind turbines located at the top of the building. There are high efficiency solar photovoltaic panels that maximize solar energy and provide additional shade where needed most, thus, reducing internal cooling loads. Radiant cooling through chilled beams, radiant floor heating and drawn tempered air through green atriums adds further efficiency. There are atrium gardens and open air green spaces throughout the building that act as natural air filters for the building’s inhabitants.[69]

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Regulating Social Networking Services

  • Privacy Concerns

In light of of the increasing privacy concerns within the online social networking community, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) is beefing up its readiness to take on issues related to social networking service use. It recently set up a special task force on social networking service privacy issues in September 2010. The team held four rounds of meetings and is in the final stages of documenting a set of legal guidelines for users. The guidelines were set to be released early 2011.

Ghost blogs.jpg
  • “Ghost Accounts”

According to the state-run Statistics Korea agency, an estimated 30,000 “ghost blogs” appear for the 20-40 age group every year on each of Korea’s top three portals - Cyworld, Naver and Daum. Ghost blogs refer to the accounts of the deceased that have not been officially shut down on social networking sites. [70]

While regulations vary among local portal operators, no current legal system has yet been established to handle the issue, even in the world’s most wired country. Critics and ordinary citizens alike have called for a social consensus on dispersing these “digital assets” after death with the image on the right showing their preferred choices.

Legislation for Data Protection
Due to South Korea’s high distribution rate for Internet broadband networks, the chances of data breach is exceptionally high. The government is now reviewing a revised version of the Data Protection Act which seeks to regulate data protection in both the public and private sector.

Currently, the supervisory watchdog for data protection is under two governmental departments: the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs for the public sector, and the Ministry of Information and Communication for the private sector.

On another note, South Korea’s private sector law is one of the strictest set of requirements in the Asia-Pacific region. Businesses can only use personal information collected for the purposes stated at the time of collection. Where this is breached, the victim may seek pecuniary compensation. In one case, one female patient underwent a plastic surgery operation and the clinic posted the movie of the patient’s operation on its Web site without her consent, and so was ordered to pay 4 million won in reparations. [71]

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Vague state of Internet regulation with regards to online defamation

There is a lack of regulations to counter widespread cyber defamation and online harassment in South Korea. It is a serious problem in South Korea with the police reporting 10,028 cases of online libel in 2007, up from 3,667 reported in 2004.[72]
Cho Jin Sil .png

The death of popular movie star, Choi Jin-sil in 2008 from a suicide attempt sparked public outcry over the spread of malicious rumors on the Internet that police said eventually caused her untimely death.

The Internet has always been a part of most Koreans’ lives; it is the most wired country in the world. The Internet has not always been abused; it played a major role in the election of President Lee Myung Bak. But South Koreans have always been vocal online, especially so against the government. For example, the US beef imports incident where vicious antigovernment postings and online rumors caused a political upheaval and led to the resignation of the entire cabinet.

The government tried its hand at reining in the wild horse. In 2008, President Lee started a month long crackdown on online defamation, identifying and arresting those who habitually post slander or instigate cyber bullying. In 2007, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) ordered web portals with more than 300,000 visitors a day to require mandatory registration of their real names and matching social security numbers in an effort to remove the cloak of Internet anonymity. Major portals like Naver and Daum complied. The government also introduced the Cyber Defamation Bill to punish those who insult others online with up to 3 years in jail or a $30 million Won fine but it has languished since critics questioned whether it would stifle freedom of speech. The state of online regulation has been in limbo ever since.

Sunfull movement.gif
However, the issue of cyber bullying has not been swept under the covers. Shocked by the rising cases of suicide resulting from online defamation, a professor of intercultural education at Konkuk University, Min Byoung-chul started the ‘Sunfull Movement’ in 2007. Min says the movement’s vision is to create a warmhearted cyber community full of sunshine. This vision is reflected in the movement’s name, Sunfull, which derives from an abbreviation of a phrase meaning good comments. He has encouraged schools to create Sunfull pages on their websites where students can post positive comments. He is convinced of the educational effect of writing positive comments ― it can change a student’s thinking and behavior. As evidence, he cites a recent survey: While 35 percent of the students in Korea on average have the experience of posting malicious comments, the percentage drops to a mere 3 percent among students who participate in the Sunfull Movement. Thanks to Min’s personal efforts, the number of schools and students participating in his campaign has steadily increased. In 2010, the number of positive comments posted on the movement’s official website topped 1 million.[73]

The NCSI Phenomenon - A boon and a bane
Netizen Crime Scene Investigations.jpeg

NCSI (Netizen Crime Scene Investigations) represent an increasing group of South Korean netizens who do research and investigations using “evidence” they pull from the Web that include real, personal information of people.

The biggest organized NCSI group is now DC Inside, an Internet portal with more than 1,000 bulletin boards. Among the boards, Comedy Gallery is where the majority of NCSIs spend their time. The Comedy Gallery is where netizens congregate to put their resources together to uncover the real identities of ordinary people who find themselves in the middle of controversy. [74]

While it can be argued that DC Inside has contributed to public safety and raising awareness, the anonymous netizens have come under heavy fire for libel. While sometimes their online sleuthing turns up crucial clues that help in official investigations. But all too often their actions ruin and traumatise lives and have driven victims to suicide.

A infamous example of an online attack belonged to the case of the “dog poop girl.” In 2005, a photo of a girl who left the subway train without picking up her dog’s waste was spread on the Internet. Korean netizens revealed her identity as well as her school, and she ended up dropping out in disgrace.

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Top 5 Strategies for Individuals

1. Get connected via your smartphone
Examples of smart commerce. Credits here

On-the-go shopping applications, popularly referred to as 'smart commerce', has skyrocketed since the introduction of the iPhone late 2009.[75] Capitalize on discounts, mobile payment, price comparison services, tracking and location-based services - in short, the convenience and benefits you can get with being and staying connected.

2. Embrace global trends
South Koreans are very receptive to foreign trends and services; the increasing popularity of Facebook and Twitter are two major examples. The next digital trend in the world might just well indicate the next trend for South Korea.

3. Stay social
The immense popularity of social networking services (SNS) in South Korea has begun to shade even more traditional forms of online communication such as emailing.[76] The large amount of time users invest online in SNS insinuate the large amount of information and networks available in these online communities.
Staying social would offer you the chance to gain access into these information and networks.

Level of Trust in Skorea.jpg

4. Don't believe everything you see
Although South Koreans do place a lot of trust in Internet content[77], it is always better to practise some caution when it comes to online content, especially so for Twitter.

According to Professor Han Sang-gi, at KAIST’s graduate school of arts and culture, due to the indiscriminate nature of tweeting in Korea (50 percent of retweets take place within just 30 minutes compared with 50 percent in 60 minutes overseas), there exists floods of false or unverifiable claims on Twitter.[78]

5. Exercise discretion in revealing personal information
The rising popularity of social networking services within South Korea makes the risk for privacy intrusion and information overexposure even greater. The leak of personal information makes users more vulnerable to target advertising and cyber bullying or defamation.
The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) advises users to set security and privacy settings on networks to the appropriate level; to agree to be connected with people only when you are certain who they are; and logging out when you’re not using the service.[79] It also warned users about publishing personal information that may be used by advertisers and marketers for targeted advertising. It reminded users that once they upload postings, they can be widely distributed through other Web sites without the user’s knowledge. The regulations can be viewed on the private information protection Web site,[80]

Top 5 Strategies for Corporations

Koreans are fortunate to benefit from the fastest broadband infrastructure in the world, catching upon the latest sporting highlights or gaming with friends is almost as simple as updating your social networking profile or sending an email on your smartphone.
Average Number of Posts on Microblogs.jpg

Local internet companies have been providing users with a slew of innovative services such as top local portal search engine naver's highly successful knowledge in Q&A service provided the inspiration for yahoo! answers.While both Naver and rival Daum have launched real time social media search services.
Use social media.jpg
Top korean companies including a good house name chaebol such as LG is leading the social media charge in asia.


1. Monitor continuously

Be sure you are tracking top influencers,forums and other online channels in order to identify potential issues early and proactively enter into relevant in conversations.Discussions online do not conveniently occur during work hours. They can happen anytime on any channel topic.

2. Clarify objectives
Many organizations enter into the world of social media without a clear idea of what they are looking to achieve and using basic metrics and tools to evaluate their performance. Having a clear set of objectives will make the programme more effective easier to sell and simpler to evaluate.

3. Get management buy-in
Encourage senior management to be aware of and optimally participate in social media in order to foster appropriate participation by employees on behalf of the company. Setting a postivive example is the best method of social media leadership.

4. Contribution to the community
Be sure that your company's particpation in social media is relevant and genuinely helping and adding value to your audiences.This is as opposed to always providing content that is marketing or promotional in nature. As with human relationships, people respond to companies that listen, responsive and approachable.

5. Participate in good and bad times
There will always be situations in which it is best to avoid participating in online conversations but generally speaking, negative content provides an opportunity for an organization to share its point of view or set the record straight. Avoiding negative issues can also make you appear uncaring and perhaps with something hide.

Korean companies are keen to be seen as innovative. They have a tendency to view social networks and other social channels as marketing tools to reach out to customers rather than public relatins platforms that can benefit or damage an organisations' longer term reputation. The korean blogosphere has a volatile nature as the koreans have a culture of making contributions and willingess to discuss issues actively.

Today, microblogs are a preferred social media option because of its increasing popularity,easy to use,open and trustworthy for the user, korean companies figure it is a good way to communicate direct to local and international stakeholders at little cost.

Social networks are proving popular. Korean companies are using facebook and twitter to draw attention to the latest corporate news and to provide a better service more finely attuned to the evolving needs of journalists,bloggers,analysts and other influencers.

Korean companies have yet to start using video in any considerable way to illustrate their activities. In this area,pr departments have yet to learn the storytelling skills of the marketing activities.


Top 5 Up & Coming Digital Media tools

In a nutshell, smartphones are the underlying reason boosting the rise in popularity of the media tools. The tools are ranked in popularity in Korea, with Viber on top followed by twitter (left), skype (right), picplz (below twitter), instagram (below skype) and the groupon logo is at the bottom due to the recency of its entry into the market. Credits to Viber, twitter, skype, picplz, instagram and groupon for their logos and iphone2pics.infofor the iPhone photo

1. Mobile VoIP (Voice over IP)
Two examples of Mobile VoIP are Skype and Viber. It allows users to communicate via voice on their mobile phones if they have a high speed internet connection like broadband or Wi-Fi[83]. Keeping in mind that South Korea enjoys the highest internet speed in the world and has an increasing amount of smartphone users, it is only a matter of time that this technology becomes widely utilized. Currently, LG Uplus, the smallest mobile carrier in Korea has allowed mobile VoIP to differentiate itself from its competitors. SK Telecom and KT are following by allowing partial access[84] .

2. Augmented Reality Technology
It enhances people’s perception of reality through the use of computer technology. This technology is possible with the use of smartphones and marketers in South Korea are increasingly using this, blurring the lines between what is real and what is not. Some examples are Avatar, the movie where it seemed as if the viewers were exploring the world of Pandora with the story's protagonists. Closer to home in South Korea, Bean Pole, a domestic clothing brand, used the technology to show its models, members of K-pop group 2NE1, sporting its latest clothes on 3-D screens in its shops[85]. Watch the video here.

3. Spread of Social Networking Service (SNS)
Social Networking is the 'in' word of the season. The amount of people on it is incredible. According to comScore, the amount of Koreans using SNS is a staggering 25 million in 2010[86]. Imagine the power of that group of audience if your company manages to engage them. Some popular sites Koreans like include Naver, the 'Google' of Korea, Youtube of which 20% of its traffic is accounted for by smartphones [87], Cyworld for social networking and of course, Twitter, which is gaining in popularity.

4. E-commerce
This is another industry propelled by the increased usage in smartphones. 44% of the entire Korean population visit online malls at least once a month. This group is led by people in their 30s, followed by the 40s and finally, the 20s. "Comprehensive" online malls that sell numerous products like GMarket and Auction and the online arms of and Shinsegae Mall were found to host the largest share with an average of 21.85 million visitors per month[88]. The industry is expected to heat up with Groupon, the largest social commerce company entering the South Korean market[89].

5. Photo sharing services
Even though, according to comScore, only 17.1% of Koreans used photo sharing sites, new mobile photo SNS, such as Instagram and PicPlz are appearing in the market[90]. Perhaps these companies will replicate their success overseas in this unique market[91]. Korean SNS ‘Finglr’, provides real-time photo sharing service. Finglr also allow users to tag and share location information.[92]

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Hear from the Experts

Video interview

Carl Kwan's blog

1. Mr Carl Kwan

Carl is a social media consultant and a public speaking and presentations specialist with over 8 years of working experience with C-level executives and professionals. He has worked with companies like Samsung, EBS and Korean Air and was very kind to share his thoughts about digital media in Korea with us. For more on what Carl does, you can check out his website, KWALUS.

View/download his interview here: Mr Carl Kwan Interview.

Email interviews

Niels Footman's Twitter Page

2. Mr Niels Footman

PR professional in consumer electronics in Seoul and writer of Footman's Frothings - a blog dedicated to social media and technology within South Korea; occasionally contributes to Seoul Space - a blog dedicated to innovations, start-ups, trends and events related to technology, internet, and all things digital within Korea.

View/download his interview here: Mr Niels Footman‎ Interview

James F Larson's Home Page

3. Mr James F Larson
James F Larson, the author of "The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea" took some time off his busy schedule to share with us some insights on his views about Korea Digital Development. His upcoming book Digital Development in Korea: Building an Information Society will soon be released! James F Larson's Homepage

View/download his interview here: Mr James F Larson‎ Interview

4. Professor Jinwoo Kim
Professor Kim has a Ph. D. in Human Computer Interaction and M.S. in Human Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. He is a noted expert on the field of new media and its applications by corporations such as Samsung and SK Telecom. We are thankful for the insights that he has shared with us regarding digital media in South Korea.

View/download his interview here: Professor Jinwoo Kim‎ Interview

4. Mr Choi


Ex-president of NHN Corp.,an Internet content service operator headquartered in Seongnam, Korea and established in 1998. Its flagship product is the Naver portal, which is one of the most popular Internet portals and search engines in South Korea.

View/download his interview here: Mr Choi‎ Interview

5. Mr Park Sang Hwan


CEO of HANATOUR Service Inc., the biggest travel agent in Korea; is well-known for being the industry leader to adopt new technology in marketing its online presence for the travel business.

View/download his interview here: Mr Park Sang Hwan‎ Interview

6. Mr Kim Chang-Won'


Co-CEO of Korea's leading blog software company, TNC, now owned by Google[93]; visit his personal blog, Web 2.0 Asia.

View/download his interview here: Mr Kim Chang-Won Interview


Interview with Jae-Yeol Goh

This is an interview with Jae-Yeol Goh, who is better-known as power tweeterian @dogsul in Korea. He is a reporter of political magazine "SISA-IN", and one of the most powerful tweeterian in Korea.

Listen Here! Read translated script Here!

Interview with Hoh Kim

Hoh specializes in managing bad news. He has counseled his clients on how to influence in a crisis situation, and has personally trained 100+ top business executives, ministers, medical doctors.[94]

Listen Here!

Interview with Dr. Gi Hong Yi

This is an interview with Dr Gi Hong Yi, a Korean sociologist trained in the USA. He is interested in economic sociology, statistics, social network analysis, mobile computing and futurology. In this segment, he would be sharing with us on the digital media landscape in South Korea. He is currently a sociology professor at Hallym University since 2003 and also a visiting scholar to Stanford University.

Listen Here!

Summary for inside digital media

With the rising Songdo City, South Korea intends to connect every home in the country to the Internet at one gigabit per second at the end of 2012. Download or listen to this podcast on what is installed for the future of South Korea in its digital media landscape.

Listen Here!

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Case Studies

Case Study #1: Google VS Naver

Although Google is the leading search engine in the world, it is not the case in South Korea., dominates the South Korean search market with a whopping 61.9% search share; they rank above Daum, who has 19.7%, and Google, who has only 7.3%.

How does Naver do it? Firstly we have to understand the differences between Naver and Google. Google gives you the options to browse whatever results are being returned while Naver brings you the hits and makes you stay in their web to browse these results. In simple terms, Naver acts more like a portal with search engine capabilities instead of a search engine.

Case Study #2: Twitter and it's effect on South Korean elections

We should never underestimate the effects of social media towards politics. Noticed how President Obama used social media to communicate with his voters. He embraced web 2.0 and revolved his presidential campaign around social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

South Korea provides another example on how social media can impact the election. It is one of the world most wired nations, with fast speed Internet and an active political scene. Thus, it is no surprise that a high percentage of the South Korean population communicate actively through the social media scene.

Getting your message out and reaching the audience is crucial to every election, and social media platforms are excellent at doing these. This was seen through the “go and vote” campaign that took South Korea by storm during their election period in year 2010.

South Korea – Twitter accounts have doubled since June when a “go and vote” campaign spread online and the office of the president began tweeting in hopes of creating better communication with voters.

However, it might not be as easy at it seems. South Korea has reportedly banned the use of Twitter during the election period. The National Election Commission (NEC) had actually restricted the use of Twitter for a period of 180-days before the election. These tweets should only be limited to personal views. NEC had even went into the extend of creating a twitter account, @nec3939, to track any illegal campaigns.

Case Study #3: Seoul Digital Media City

With 133-floors and standing at 640m tall, the landmark building's master plan was completed in 2000, and was targeted to be ready by April 2015. Once completed, it will be the tallest building in Asia!

This will once again propel South Korea digital media landscape into a new level as South Korea seeks to develop its IT infrastructure. The DMC (Digital Media City) will be home to digital media R&D firms, digital broadcasting centers and IT companies.

Case Study #4: The Protest of Kim Jin Suk against Hanjin Heavy Industries for worker's right

This case study illustrates how advancing technology in the media defines the protest methods of Kim Jin Suk and her supporters. While the motivations for protests and strikes (worker's rights and political reform) have been similar throughout history, we get to observe how a labor union officer could raise awareness and garner support in such a short time via the use of social media.

In Dec 2010, Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction (HHIC) which is a Korean shipbuilding company laid off more than 400 workers at a shipyard in the southern port city of Busan. HHIC stated that the layoffs were necessary because the company was in financial difficulties due to lack of shipbuilding orders and the bad economy. Unfortunately, a deeper analysis shows that the layoffs were not entirely true.[95]. Instead, decisions by the management seem to have been driven by corporate greed. For instance, the company plans to move operations from Korea to Philippines so as to save on labor costs. As Korea has a loose social safety net, being unemployed can have huge financial implications on the person's family. As a result, this caused a huge uproar with the labor union, leading Kim Jin Suk to conduct a sit-down protest on top of the mammoth crane #85 over the past 10 months.

During her days up in the crane, Kim Jin Suk was able to keep in touch with her supporters through Youtube and Twitter on her smartphone.Refer to the following links for her accounts.

The use of social media in this protest has garnered support and attention from both the local and international community. For instance, she sent a message to the protests of Occupy Wall Street, stating “My friends who fight in Wall Street, the heart of Neo-liberalism. This is Jin-suk Kim. Great to talk to you!”[96] In Philippine, NGOs have organized protests against Hanjin due to unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices."[97] Some Koreans have even used Storify, a content curation site, to share updates of the protest to the community.

From this case study, we learned the importance of a corporate communication function in an organization. This is because corporations can no longer afford to ignore the voices of its stakeholders. Had the management of Hanjin been forthcoming with its layoffs and engage its stakeholders via social media, the outcome might have been different.

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  88. Online shoppers seek deals on mobile phones, Korea Jooang Daily, Dec 7, 2010,
  89. Groupon aims for slice of Korean social commerce market, Translation courtesy of Oglivy, Mar 17, 2011, via Chosun Biz,
  90. State of the Internet with a focus on Asia Pacific, comScore, Jul, 2010,Wide Range in Popularity of Photo sites among Asian Audience
  91. How Brands Are Using Mobile Photo Sharing, Mar 17, 2011, Mashable,
  92. SNS is booming up with ‘Photo Sharing Service’, Translation courtesy of Oglivy, Mar 4, 2011,, via etnews,
  93. Google buys Korean blog platform TNC,
  94. Introduction to Hoh Kim by 360 Digital Influence,
  95. Why they climbed the towering crane,
  96. "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators, we are fighting the same fight,
  97. Linking the Struggle of Philippine and South Korean Workers Against Hanjin,

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