Thursday, May 04, 2006

Is Korea leading the way?

Yesterday I had a meeting with a representative of an Indian company with offices in several parts of the world. His job has taken him to several countries, and he exressed the firm view that Korea is the most technologically advanced country in the world, with Japan second and the USA third.

I was surprised at this, because I've heard a great deal about India and China as the emerging powers in the technological world, but not a word about Korea. According to this man, every Korean home is likely to have several computers (4 or 5 was his estimate) and a router. My own home has two computers, plus two work-based laptops that get brought home regularly. We also have a router. I'm a bit of an ignoramus about networks, but I kind of thought that a router was a standard requirement for a broadband connection - how else would you route your phone and your computer through it? I know that we don't represent the average UK household, but we are certainly not far from it among our peers.

So what else do they have in Korea that makes them so advanced? Apparently gadgets. Lots of them: mp3 players, Blackberries, handhelds, you name it. I heard that if you walk across any carpark you like in Korea, you will see at least two gadgets on every dashboard - antennae, satnav, all kinds of stuff. I wonder if they have wifi clouds over the cities.

Because this wasn't the purpose of the meeting, we didn't pursue the matter any further, but I'm curious now. Is this common knowledge - am I the only one who didn't know this? If so, why hasn't there been information about it all over the blogosphere alongside the information about India and China? Or is it all over the blogosphere and I've managed consistently to miss it? Or, is my "informant" misinformed?


hoong said...

There are two Korea(s), south and north. The Korea this Indian gentleman is saying is S. Korea.

Yes. S. Korea is very advance in ICT technologies (that includes all things technology in my case... TV, phones, mobile phones etc.). And internet softwares, games etc. etc.

As for China, well, the size is huge by population and space. Therefore when you here about 'millions' in China, that would most likely represents only a very small portions of the populations. That is the regular misconceptions that I find so common in the media when things related to China.

As for router, if I understand you correctly, perhap you have misunderstood router with spliter? Generally you would have a signal coming in (through the wall !! :)) ), the signal would split for TV and then PC. If my technical knowledge is still correct, you only need a router when there are more than 1 computer in the house.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this feedback, Hoong - it's good to hear from someone actually based in Korea. Thanks for picking me out about the North/South point as well - I assumed he meant S Korea and didn't think to make that clear in my post. Apologies for the oversight.

I don't know how representative you are of a typical S. Korean household, but your gadgets don't sound terribly different from those in most British homes: "TV, phones, mobile phones etc." Perhaps you are so accustomed to living with some of the gadgets we don't commonly have, that you didn't list them.

I'm pretty sure the thing I'm referring to is a router, but I wouldn't stake my life on it! It doesn't have anything to do with the TV as far as I know - it's our broadband connection for the phone line and the internet. Before I enabled my laptop for wifi, I used to have to plug it directly into the router to be able to access the internet and gain remote access to my office network.

I am not a political commentator or even particularly well informed on matters of that nature, so, at the risk of making a fool of myself, this is my take on the India and China story:

I appreciate that both China and India are large countries with over 1 billion people each. However, they are both playing an increasing role in the global economy. They have always been large and they have always had large populations, but they have not always played such a prominent role. For many years, China kept itself to itself and kept apart from the global scene, so the speed at which they have begun to emerge as a key power is remarkable. It was also comparitively recently that India was regarded as a third world nation with little impact on the international economy. I understand that it now produces more engineers than any other country, and increasingly organisations in the UK and USA are outsourcing operations there. Also remarkable.

Anonymous said...

I think maybe it's distinguishing between a router with just two interfaces - one in and one out, and a router with lots of interfaces - one in and lots out. You need the former for broadband, but not the latter - though you may well have the latter especially if you have wireless.

hoong said...

Hello Karyn,

Now is my turn to apologize. I am not Korean but I did work in S. Korea for a year in the wireless sector, therefore is familiar with that country. I always wonder why the world pays so little attention to S. Korea. It is a remarkable country. Hard working people, good team-work mentality, very talented people.

As for China: I still think is the size that is what mesmorize (or scare the heck) the rest of the world.

Take the case of textile industry. I am sure you are familiar with the story. Since Jan 2005 because of joining WTO China literally march and flatten the whole world with textile products. Here is my arguement. Assuming China has only 500 millions people, and let's assume as well their textile productions is only 1/2 of what they are now, would the world still be that alarmed? ( I am just making all these up).If all things are equal that would mean their income from the textile industry would be 1/2 as well. What would that be for their GDP/GNP? And what would that be for their spending power? Would they be on spending spree as what we see now?

China produces good engineers based on technical knowledge. But I think a business enterprise needs more than just technically knowledgable engineers. It is especially true in the global environment -- these days not many companies can stay at home and not on world stage -- That's why, I think, presently we see China 'buying' whole car factory from Brazil, or IBM PC division (Lenova). I think they are desperately trying to frog-leap the whole process of 'growing' an international/global business. Personally I don't think it is going to work. Operating an international business is a lot more complex than buying one. Time will tell.

I think I better stop here. I am taking up too much space :)

hoong said...

Hello Karyn,

This time is about India -- producing great numbers of engineers -- This syndrom one point in time was the people of the Phillippines. And then what happened? I found engineers, lawyers, business majors cleaning houses in Singapore, the middle-east or as maids in the hotels in UK. When a country is not able to make use of her talented human resources, it is a sad, sad story.

Well, India is in a different era. Perhaps. Again I am curious to know what is the propotion of working engineers against jobless engineers in India? What is the real reason they are so much cheaper to hire in India? If the number is much smaller, would they be so much more competitive?

Now that lead me to wonder if that is the designed of India to produce large number of highly educated human resources?

India has an advantage over China. English language. Because of this great advantage, in my opinion, China might stay as manufacturing house for the rest of the world.

Cultures and characteristics of the people would mean success or failures. I think just being well educated is no guarantee for dominating the world.

If S. Korea has the same population size, I would be more worry about S. Korea than China and India put together. Remember Japan? Koreans are very much like them. Perhaps when the two Koreas are together, there will be plenty of fireworks!

Albert Ip said...

As a Chinese Australian and grew up in Hong Kong, here is what I know about S. Korean, HK and China.

Technology-wise, my best bandwidth here in Melbourne Australia is two ISP connections at 1.5M download and 512K upload each. I believe HK and S. Korean's mean bandwidth is 5M both ways. China is a late comer in terms of Internet connections. I believe the total allocated IP addresses in China is less than those of a large US University. But China has the longest optical fibre laid in the world - mainly under the new highway between cities. SCORM is an elearning standard originated from Department of Defence in America. Since the certification of compliance of SCORM applications began in 2000 (around that time), S. Korean has the highest certified products.

I don't think language will be an issue in terms of becoming the world dominance power. Choice of language is political as well as economical. When you have the power, you dictate the language other people will communicate with you. China has the population, the political will and the economic potential to become a world power.

In terms of culture of the people, S. Korean, HK, Japanese, Chinese are quite similar. These cultures believe in hard-work, entrepreneurial and have strong sense of national pride!

Anonymous said...

That connection speed impresses me! I'm not one for gadgets just for the sake of it, but I am dead keen on faster and faster connection. You would not believe how slow my connection is at work - I go home if I want something faster, but even that is not lightning speed!

As to language, I believe you are dead on. There are schools in the UK that have begun to introduce Mandarin Chinese as a mandatory subject in recognition of exactly the point you make. There have been several posts about it in the blogosphere, although I can't remember enough about any one of them to give you any links.

Albert Ip said...

Just on a slightly different front, I have a post comparing India and China at