Korea’s Year in Review: 2. Business and Technology

[First of the series: North Korean issues] [Second: Business and Tech Keywords] [Third: K-Pop and Soap Opera Keywords]

Lee Yoo Eun took a look back at the year’s hottest keywords that have been widely circulated over Korean internet venues. Second, on Business and Technology Keywords.

1. Smartphones, Specifically i-Phones

Starting from around June, the growth of smartphone was truly recognizable. As the year comes to an end now, it has become one of the game changers in whole business sectors. The i-Phone 4 made a noisy entrance to South Korea around August, igniting one of the fiercest battles between Apple’s i-Phone 4 versus Samsung’s Gallery S. Samsung, South Korea’s national pride and one of the nation’s biggest companies, struggled in a competition with Apple on its home ground, as young South Koreans who are less-patriotic but a lot more tech-savvy, inclined to Apple which gives more free room to customize and offers a wider choice in applications. Though Galaxy S, with its high quality, achieved some success around the world, it is Apple’s i-Phone that ranked as the word of the year in numerous local surveys. (Read More)

2. Twitter and Facebook VS Home-grown SNS

TGIF Wave (Twitter, Google, i-Phone, Facebook): 2010 was a tough year for many South Korean home-grown SNSs (Social Networking Services). NAVER, a search engine with email and blog services that has more traffic in South Korea than any other site was no exception. Twitter is now growing faster in South Korea than almost anywhere else in the world, and Facebook users have tripled since April of this year. In an effort to stem the tide, Naver has launched a Twitter-like service called “me2DAY”, a Facebook-like service called “NAVER Me”, and “NAVER Talk”, a text- and instant-messaging service. Local brands have come with Korean-built microblogging services, such as Yagg and Tocpic. But many of them are fighting losing battles against TGIF. (Read More).

Mega-Twitterers and social media power: As the number of twitters have reached 2 million in South Korea, the Mega-Twitterers with several thousand followers sprang up and have started gaining power over local media. Increasingly more major media are quoting comments and pictures from Twitter as their source.

3. FTA Deal (November)

South Korea and the United States agreed on a free trade deal, after the South made concessions to address key U.S. concerns on automobile trade in return for a two-year delay in the elimination of its tariffs on American beef. While both governments officially claimed the deal a win-win for both countries, lots of Koreans protested against the timing of the deal. The deal was signed a few days after the Yeonpyeong incident which maximized the importance of the US-ROK (Republic of Korea) alliance. A majority of the public (both Koreans and Americans) were not satisfied with the result either, even calling it a ‘humiliating result’.

4. SSM-Chicken and Pizza controversies (Nov-Dec)
From November to December, public attention was given to SSM (Super SuperMarket) as more and more big chain markets have started encroaching on small business’ territories with low-priced products. The E-mart’s pizza and the Lotte Mart’s chicken went under fire by providing the same items but at a higher quality and cheaper price, almost devouring local pizza and chicken parlors. Bloggers who used to side with small business owners during the E-mart’s pizza controversy, leaned toward the Lotte Mart’s chicken that disappeared a few weeks after its debut in midst of nation-wide debates. This weird controversy and the huge fuss created over the price of chicken have swept the nation for several weeks now, even prompting the president to comment on the chicken’s price.

5. Kospi 2000 Despite the Risk Factor (Dec)

The KOSPI jumped past 2,000 points for the first time in 37 months despite the Yeonpyeong skirmish in November, after the main index nosedived in 2008 in the wake of the global financial crisis. Lots of Koreans, pleasantly surprised, cheered at this good news but there are still unresolved issues with China factors and the sluggish U.S. market recovery.