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This article was published on June 10, 2008

If you like the web, I bet you love South Korea too

If you like the web, I bet you love South Korea too
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Business development manager in Shanghai, always up to play with shiny gadgets, firecrackers or eat Shabu shabu. (Japanese hotpot)         Business development manager in Shanghai, always up to play with shiny gadgets, firecrackers or eat Shabu shabu. (Japanese hotpot)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Check out                                                                                                                               • Got Twitter? ♥ -> @Joop

That is, if you like to be connected to the Internet all day, while enjoying the fastest connections in the world! Enter the hyper connected society, with an astounding 90 percent of the country connected with 3G and a nation wide coverage of a South Korean version of Wimax.

How and why did South Korea become an overlord in Internet speed? In short; the South Korean government introduced a number of policy instruments to stimulate technological learning, aimed to strengthen international competitiveness of the economy. The government launched a five-year plan to create a ubiquitous networked world in 1995, meaning that the country developed a stunning 1.5 billion dollar wireless network to stimulate the use of the Internet.

Today, South Korea is the most connected country on earth, but the funny thing is that we hardly hear anything about Korea’s web scene. This made us curious about what websites are popular over there, and if Korea has a web 2.0 scene. To find that out, we reviewed the three visited websites in Korea and we interviewed Chang W. Kim, Korean web 2.0 enthusiast and initiator of the Open Web Asia ’08 conference.

The top three websites in South Korea

When we look at the Alexa list of most visited websites in South Korea, we find a social network, search engine and Internet portal. They all have western equivalents, but are slightly different.

1. Cyworld
Social network Cyworld is a trendsetter in E-commerce, generating an astounding amount of revenue last year, surpassing that of almighty Facebook. The majority of their cash flow is built up out of digital presents, not advertisements, with the biggest amount coming from the ability to buy-your-friend-a-song, only that service made Cyworld the second-biggest music store in the world behind iTunes in 2006.

2. Naver
Search engine Naver is probably the worlds best in localized results. For the last few years, we have seen increasing amounts of search engines popping up on the Internet, they are using advanced algorithms to come up with better results. Not in South Korea, at least not at Naver. Employees analyze, index and produce content for their search engine by hand. Even though this labor intensity, Naver counts for 70% of the search queries in their country, leaving Google with just 2% far behind.

3. Daum
On number three we find Internet portal Daum, the most interesting thing about Daum is the combination of user-generated content and the connections to mass media networks and companies. ‘Web stars’ from the video portal make appearances on dedicated TV programs. Also, traditional media companies are realizing the power of the new media, and are increasing interested to organize contests, offering prizes to original video uploads. It seems that Daum is innovative in it’s approach in user generated content, and might be a interesting thing to look for as a ‘old media company’.

All these websites offer refreshing approaches on income, localization and approaches on user generated content. However, none of these top South Korean websites has yet become successful in Europe or the US, and we hardly hear from South Korean web companies on Techcrunch or the, or meet many South Korean friends at conferences in the Europe. To me, this doesn’t add up. I suspect that all this connectivity would at create an internet culture, what about the web 2.0 culture in South Korea?

The startup scene in South Korea

We approached Chang W. Kim to find out more about the web scene in South Korea, Chang is blogger at web2.0Asia and CEO of one of the most prominent blog companies in South Korea. He explains:

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