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This article was published on November 7, 2009

Give Me Two Minutes To Tell You Why Cyworld US Failed

Give Me Two Minutes To Tell You Why Cyworld US Failed
Regina Walton
Story by

Regina Walton

Regina is founder of Organic Social Media, providing blogging and social media services. She earned her master’s in international studies fr Regina is founder of Organic Social Media, providing blogging and social media services. She earned her master’s in international studies from Ewha Womans University, earned her J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and earned her B.A. in English and philosophy at UCLA. Follow Regina on Twitter or go to her LinkedIn.com profile, MediaBistro.com page or blog for more information.

I got this email last night around 9:25pm EST on Thursday.

Thank you to all members with Cyworld.

Due to Cyworld shuts down US service, US Cyworld will no longer be able to service.
We sincerely apologize for shutting down the service with unavoidable reason.
Before US cyworld close the service, you will continue to access to US cyworld contents but not
purchase items. Also, you will not use your acorns.
If you have unused acorns, you will be given a full refund for paid acorns only.

Refunds and data backup service is in progress, using the acorn will no longer be able to purchase for miniroom items, skins, etc.

@ Schedule for closing US Cyworld service

Due to Data Back-up and closing service issues, the service will be unavailable.

* Shop service will be unavailable since Nov 03, 2009
o Club service, Profile photo/data upload serivce will be unavailable since Nov 23, 2009″

cyworld bye bye 2

I knew immediately that it had come from Korea.  Why? The English, while not horrendous, isn’t good.  It’s a pretty ingrained habit in Korean business that people don’t ask for the most basic of help when it comes to proofreading English.  That’s why Korea is constantly laughed at for its Engrish.

The problem this time? Not asking someone to proofread this letter (or, as my experience has gone, getting someone to proofread the letter and then ignoring their feedback.)

How do I know this?  Click over to my bio.  I lived in South Korea from August 2000 until March 2009.  During my time there there it was pretty much a sure thing that you’d fall into a cultural chasm when dealing with the natives and vice versa.  The chasm is crossed successfully all the time.  I know this first-hand.  However, that was usually in the context personal relationships and also in the context of the mass production of consumer and industrial goods.  That’s why South Korea is now in the top 15 economies in the world and is a powerhouse export economy.

Koreans still have a big problem trying to measure and understand Western tastes and attitudes.  It goes the other way too.  There was a lot of glee when Wal-Mart and Carrefour shuttered their South Korean divisions simply because E-Mart, 이마트, does it much better. Chalk it up to a cultural chasm.  All of those sensibilities and preferences which are really difficult to understand.  Wal-Mart and Carrefour didn’t get it.

In this case, SK didn’t get it, cut their losses on their $10 million investment and moved the operation back to Seoul late last year.

I joined Cyworld on May 19, 2008.  I know this because I got 30 acorns for joining.  I still only have the vaguest idea why I should have ever cared about acorns.  According to TechCrunch, acorns would have allowed me to give my Cyworld Minime some creature comforts.

However, that’s the problem.  Buying acorns to furnish my little Minime’s room wasn’t something I was remotely interested in.  In fact, I wasn’t interested in having a Minime at all.  However, Cyworld assumed I was and gave me one.  I made her look as much like me as possible, but she’s been standing there in her empty room for over a year happy and smiling and, I guess, waiting for me to spend my acorns on some furniture.  However, I don’t care, and I dont’ think anyone on this side of the Pacific Ocean ever cared about acorns and micropayments for a virtual world.  That’s something Cyworld US would have figured out had they asked.  They didn’t, so now they’ve fled back to Seoul.

my cyworld

I joined hoping that Cyworld would be international. I already had very active MySpace and Facebook accounts and was already connecting with my American friends and family.  MySpace and Facebook also let me connect with my Korean and other international friends too. Realizing that Cyworld is pretty much Korean only, I’ve noticed that my Korean friends have slowly been joining Facebook. 

Unlike MySpace and Facebook, I couldn’t connect with my Korean friends on Cyworld Korea using Cyworld US. I’m telling you with around 90% of Koreans under 20 on Cyworld Korea, it was very likely I was going to find my former students and my full-grown friends there.

So why did Cyworld US fail? A lack of connectivity. These social networking sites are all about inclusion not acorns and micropayments.

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