'There's fierce competition among service providers in South Korea,' says Simon Bureau, managing director and founder of Vectis International, 'and PC 'bangs' - cybercafes - became popular during the Asian financial crisis, when some Koreans were out of jobs and
didn't have a workplace to go to.'
Bureau, speaking at the CommunicAsia Summit yesterday, said that South Korea's dominant social fabric has had a strong impact on content-consumption patterns, and strong popularity of bandwidth-intensive content (online games and education) has triggered demand for broadband services.
Another factor in broadband take-up is what Bureau described as Korea's 'herd consumer behavior, or, as he put it: 'our neighbors the Kims have broadband, so we must have it too.'
Korea's most popular net services are developed by local companies, in local language, to local tastes, says Bureau. This is one reason explaining the low popularity of Google, with around a 3% market share. 'Google is well aware of this,' says Bureau, 'and is actively addressing it.'
Bureau says that this localization has driven a Korean-language knowledge-search trend and the site ohmynews.com, which relies on 44,000 citizen-reporters, who help determine editorial policy. The site supported presidential candidate Roh Moo-Hyun in 2002 while newspapers opposed him - he eventually won.
Koreans use the acronym 'UCC' for user-created content, and Bureau says this will have a big impact on the presidential elections scheduled for later this year, with the candidates already jockeying for online position.
More and more regional government offices are providing an Internet broadcasting service, especially in Seoul, he says.