Ending anonymity: the Korean identity system “debacle”

I already mentioned the problems of online bullying happening in Korea (the (online) persecution of Daniel Lee, Korea’s top actress commits suicide amid rumors, Cyberviolence in Korea), and the government’s response which consisted in imposing a “real identity” system (update on Korea’s online identity system). Ars Technica is giving us an update, which is that the system will be.. abandoned!

The best argument against laws requiring websites to use “real name” policies is South Korea’s disastrous experiment with requiring websites to collect the real names of users who post content. Freedom House told the story in a recent report:

In 2007, the internet real-name registration system was expanded to apply to any website with more than 100,000 visitors per day. Users are required to verify their identities by submitting their Resident Registration Numbers (RRNs) when they wish to join and contribute to web portals and other major sites. As RRNs are assigned only to Korean citizens at birth, foreign nationals must individually contact webmasters to confirm their identities. This included the video-sharing website YouTube, but the site’s U.S.-based parent company, Google, refused to ask its Korean customers for their RRNs. Instead, it has blocked users from uploading content onto YouTube Korea. Users are able to bypass the restriction by changing their location setting to “worldwide.” Even the Korean presidential office maintains its YouTube channel in this way.

Trying to quell extremist views by preventing them from being expressed anonymously simply isn’t going to work. The Web is a big place; no government on Earth has the reach to completely eliminate anonymous forums from the Internet. Trying to suppress anonymous posting of extremist views just forces them underground, reinforcing extremists’ persecution complex and making them even more disconnected from mainstream political debates.

After a barrage of criticism, the South Korean government has finally announced plans to abandon the system. This recent decision came in the wake of a major security breach in which information about 35 million users was reportedly stolen from two popular websites.


Online gaming curfew

While France is re-establishing curfews for teenagers, Korea is dealing with other problems tied to online gaming addiction. The authorities are discussing the creation of an online gaming curfew:

Not only does South Korean have the largest online gaming community in the world, it also has its fair share of tragedy associated with it. Several incidents have been reported in which gaming has directly, or indirectly, ended in death.

A 15 year old South Korean boy was alleged to have murdered is mother, before committing suicide, after being scolded for playing online games for too long. In another case, an older male died after a non-stop gaming session lasting over five days.

It’s not just the extreme cases that have led the South Korean government to consider requiring Internet service providers to cut off access to online games, for all users under the age of 16, for the six hours following midnight.


Lift Asia 09 is here

Lift Asia 09 will start tonight with the speakers diner, then the talks will kick off tomorrow morning at 10am (3am Swiss time). The team is busy with last minute logistics, printing badges, preparing the rooms, making sure the setup goes smoothly. Nicolas, Benjamin Joffe and I are giving talks at Daum, one of the conference partner for whom we organized a private event for the staff that can not attend Lift can still get access to some of the ideas and inspirations.

Lift Asia 09 location
I heard the weather is quite cold in Europe, so I wanted to share a picture of the setting where Lift Asia 09 happens. Sorry 😀

This is the third year we organize the conference in Korea after Lift Asia 07 and Lift Asia 08, but only the second Jeju event with 400+ attendees. Lift is getting more and more understood and recognized, something that is not obvious as it is radically different from traditional Asian conferences. There is a clear jump in the quality of people attending. Several high level CEOs will be in the room, in this country it is a key indicator on how much credibility you have.

The program has been rocked by the last minute addition of the guys who helped take Korea from an industrial country to an internet powerhouse. The co-founder of Cyworld, the CEO of Neowiz (the country’s third largest internet company), the founder of Daum (first or second largest internet company depending on how you look ;), these guys are rarely on stage, and having them together for a fireside chat will make this even more special. They join speakers from all over the world, and a few rock stars like our friend Ida Daussy, one of the country’s most famous TV personality who will open with a pep talk about Korean and Western culture, and how they mix up during a conference like Lift.

The conference ends on Friday evening, see you on Saturday when normallife will resume. Rock on!

Street computers

Seoul is one of the world’s most wired city, and the recent “ubiquitous city” project aims to increase the level of connectivity citizens experience on the street. One of the most visible part of the u-city is the media poles forest, tenth of computers embedded into high poles offering services like news, submay and bus maps, email postcard, 3D avatar game, casual games, shopping/restaurant locator and Flickr photo gallery (more). This sort of rich country’s version of the hole in the wall is extremely popular, and many couples and groups gather around the screens to share a moment playing games or sending a postcard.

Four young girls pose at a “media pole” on Gangnam Avenue. Photo by Time

I made a short video to show those computers who bring people together instead of isolating them.

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Fly to Seoul in less than 2 minutes

After making the trip for the 15th time, I made a small video to show you what it’s like to fly to Seoul, and arrive in a completely different world.

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Korean IT sector reproducing Japanese disaster?

It seems Korea is touched by a local form of BigCompanizite, with innovations being kept at bay by monopolies and walled gardens:

For starters, Korea is the only developed country in the world that has yet to see iPhones, the gold standard of modern smart phones. Local carriers, bent on protecting their walled garden are still hesitant to embrace the breakthrough phone […]

Samsung and LG may be selling some of the most advanced touchscreen phones in the global market, but amazingly when those high-end phones are released for the local folks, they are sans Wi-Fi for fear of getting on the nerves of local carriers. […]

The freedom of speech in the Korean Cyberspace is rapidly deteriorating as well, amid flurry of recent legislation that ranges from the real name log-on system that invited a sharp rebuke from YouTube Korea and the three-strike rule for online copyright infringements. […]

The recent developments in the Korean IT sector remind many industry observers of the spectacular failure of another nation in Asia — Japan.

Back in the late 1990’s and well into the early 2000’s, Japan was full of eye-popping handsets that were an envy of the global IT world and a torrent of sophisticated innovations were pouring out of the mobile Internet sector. But like the Galapagos Islands, Japan took its own unique evolutionary path in the technology, cut off from the rest of the world. It is now a well-established fact that Japan had to hurry later to catch up with the Web, ironically because of its sophisticated — but highly insular — innovations in the homegrown mobile internet.

Link (thanks Olivier)

Japanese folding

I find this fascinating:

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This is totally unrelated to whatever is usually written on this blog, but that particular video might save hours to several readers who, so far, had been stuggling immensely with the daunting task of folding tshirts.

Time to fly to Seoul now, this time with a camera and the strong intention to shoot more videos (and share some of the experiences I keep on living in Korea).