Tag Archives: technology

Kakao users

SKoreans Consider Leaving KakaoTalk Amid Concerns Of Government Surveillance

by JAMES S. KIM

Many South Koreans are considering leaving KakaoTalk and switching to other mobile messaging applications due to concerns over a government crackdown on rumors circulating on social media, according to the Associated Press.

In mid-September, the South Korean government announced that it would be taking “proactive” measures to prevent the spread of false and malicious postings on major portal websites through the creation of a special investigative team. This means if someone were to cause a serious social controversy through false accusations and rumors, then that individual could face detainment or punishment for his or her actions. The investigative team would then potentially gain access to private chat histories to seek out the origins of these rumors.

The announcement hasn’t sat well with South Korean social media users. Many have accused the government of censorship and attempting to control public opinion, and in the last few weeks, a considerable number have weighed dropping Kakao Talk in favor of different mobile messaging options.

The most popular alternative messaging application has been Telegram, a free Russia-based app that was created to avoid surveillance from Russian officials. On Friday, it was the most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store in South Korea; on the Google Play Store, Telegram was the No. 2 downloaded free communications app behind KakaoTalk. A few of the app’s South Korean users said in reviews that they left KakaoTalk to seek “asylum” from government surveillance and requested Telegram to add a Korean language service.

A research firm said an estimated 610,000 South Korean visited Telegram last week, a 40-fold increase compared to the numbers before the crackdown was announced. Smaller South Korean messaging apps, such as DonTalk, have seen higher downloads in recent weeks as well, along with other messengers that have their servers abroad.

Despite this mass migration, it’s hard to picture South Korea without KakaoTalk. After all, Nielsen reported at the end of 2013 that 93 percent of South Koreans used the application. Telegram hardly comes close, especially since it lacks the language option and special features such as emoticons and games that KakaoTalk provides.

President Park Geun-hye’s administration has been sensitive to social media. Many South Koreans were critical of the government’s response to the Sewol ferry sinking in April, and a number of them said their houses and social media accounts had been searched with court approval.

Park also relayed her unhappiness over online rumors during a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 16. She said that slander and false rumors on the Internet were causing division in the nation, and she ordered the justice ministry to investigate unfounded rumors on the Internet, which led to the formation of the investigative team.

They didn’t waste much time. On Oct. 1, a woman accused of libeling President Park was sentenced to four months in prison with a one-year stay of execution. The woman, identified only by the surname Tak, was found guilty of spreading false rumors that the president had an extramarital affair with her former mentor and his son-in-law.

Civic organizations also criticized police and government officials for recently seizing KakaoTalk chats and personal information of Labor Party leader Jung Jin-woo and about 3,000 of his acquaintances. They had gathered to demand a probe into the Sewol ferry disaster.

Daum Kakao, which was formed by the merger of Daum Communications and Kakao, has tried to assuage Kakao Talk users by saying that authorities could not look at users’ messages without a court order. Co-CEO of Daum Kakao, Lee Sirgoo, told reporters last week that the company had “top security technology to prevent leaks and hacking,” and that KakaoTalk messages were only stored on servers for only three days before getting permanently deleted.

However, Lee said Kakao Talk was still “subject to South Korean law” and would still hand over information “when there is a fair execution of law.”

 

Daum Kakao

Daum Employees to Adopt English Names in Kakao Merger

by JAMES S. KIM

South Korean mobile messenger service provider Kakao is set to acquire Internet portal site Daum earlier this year in a 3.1 trillion won ($3.03 billion) deal after shareholders approved the merger, Reuters reports. For employees at Daum, though, it’s going to be more than just new ownership they’ll be taking on.

Last Wednesday, South Korea’s No. 2 Internet search company said that its workers will all adopt English names, following Kakao’s lead in taking on an anti-hierarchical work culture.

“Daum and Kakao have reviewed together how employees of the merged firm will address one another, and after much discussion, we’ve decided to follow the case at Kakao where workers call each other by English names,” Kang Yuk-yeong, a communications official at Daum, told Yonhap News.

“Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”

Workplace hierarchy is present in some manner or form in any corporate culture, but respect for authority figures is usually a more prevalent issue in the Korean workplace. It can go from something small, like using both hands when presenting and receiving a business card, to addressing others by their family name and title.

However, workplace cultures in smaller and newer technology companies in Korea has apparently been shifting more from one influenced by rigid Confucianism to one more casual and worker-friendly. Workers in the latter environment would ideally be more open to communicating more, sharing thoughts and judgments without any worry.

“Each company has a different culture. I’m not saying which one is better or worse, it’s just different. But I would say using English names, without titles, makes me and my colleagues feel more comfortable when we share and suggest new ideas,” a Kakao official, named Dallas, told the Korea Times.

Daum had already been asking their workers to call each other by their Korean name with nim at the end in a much more casual, so the only other difficulty they may run into may be finding a name to adopt.

“Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” Kang said.

Image via Korea Herald

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Exhibition Shows Off the ‘Tomorrowland’ Visions of a NKorean Architect

by TONY KIM

Whenever a movie set in the future premieres, it’s always interesting to what the director envisions society will look like decades or centuries from today. In such films, the future almost always is either littered with death and destruction (Terminator Salvation or Rise of the Planet of the Apes) or saturated with stunning neo-modern skyscrapers and superstructures (Cloud Atlas or The Fifth Element).

Hollywood’s take on futuristic architecture has been on display for quite a while, but for the first time ever, people now get the chance to see how a North Korean architect envisions buildings of the future. Currently on exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy is “Commissions for Utopia,” which depicts futuristic buildings designed by one of the country’s brightest young architects—someone who Wired reported has little exposure to modern architecture:

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “architect” is a government job. There are no private projects, and young North Korean architects come out of school with only a faint understanding of the field as it exists outside their deeply isolated country. Recently, however, one young architect was given a rare chance at an outside commission by a client named Nick Bonner.

Bonner, a British filmmaker and founder of Koryo Tours, a travel company responsible for more than half of all the foreign tourists who visit the country, commissioned the architect to produce illustrations of futuristic tourist destinations for the world’s most isolated country. Bonner is convinced North Korea is bound to become a popular travel spot. According to Reuters, Koryo Tours has experienced “a tenfold rise in business in the past decade” and an estimated 6,000 Westerners travel every year from 700 a decade ago.

Wired magazine said the speculative drawings “could pass as concept art for the Tomorrowland section of Disney’s theme parks.” Here’s a sampling of the unnamed architect’s futuristic renderings:

img_4464-2Sustainability was a key theme for the artwork, and this self-sustaining silk cooperative receives energy from solar panels, wind turbines and watermills. The buildings are reminiscent of a “Korean hand wheel, which is used for weaving.” The randomly interspersed helicopter pads, cable lifts and the infusion of nature show why this location might be a pleasant destination for “workers of the countryside.”

 

img_4411-2Nature surrounds this “aerial hotel,” which emphasizes open space for customers—that is, as long as they’re not afraid of heights. The uniquely cone-shaped gliding mechanical object on the top left appears to be a futuristic helicopter.

 

img_4416-2One of the things that Seoul is known for is its sheer number of apartments that crowd the city. Well, in this image, North Korea seems to have solved the overcrowded atmosphere created by blocky apartments by constructing immense conifer-shaped buildings interconnected by cone-shaped tubes, which are apparently ski runs. Self-sustainability once again is evidenced by the solar panels, and interestingly enough, helicopters make another appearance on top of the apartments.

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Forget the old RV trucks, travel in style inside you very own flying house, lifted into the air by a single propeller.

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What appears at first to be a broken Rubik’s cube is a riverside guesthouse called “The Bird’s Nest.” The house is made up mostly of the surrounding woods and looks as if each pillar or section is its own bird nest. The horizontal pillars symbolize the connection of the house to its surroundings, and so a harmonic relationship between modernity and nature is once again established.

Illustrations via Koryo Tours

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SKorean Electronics Giant LG Shows Off Transparent and Rollable TVs

by HAEIN JUNG

“Life’s good” when you can turn off your transparent TV and have it blend in with your wall. Or when you can roll up your TV and carry it to another room.

South Korean electronics giant LG—which stands for its motto “Life’s Good”—has announced that it has developed a prototype of an 18-inch television that is transparent and another TV that is so thin it can be rolled up like a taquito for your convenience, according to the Wall Street Journal blog.

“We are confident that by 2017, we will successfully develop an ultra HD (high-definition) flexible and transparent OLED panel of more than 60 inches,” said Kang In-Byung, LG Display’s head of research & development, as reported by the WSJ blog.

What does this mean for the consumer? Moving will be much easier, lunch breaks more entertaining, and the gigantic television screens we love today will become less of a hulking presence in the living room.

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The transparent TV relies on OLED technology, using an organic light-emitting diode. The company’s first OLED TVs debuted early last year. Since OLED does not require a backlight, it allows screens to be brighter, more energy efficient, and unlike the previous generation’s plasma TVs with glass displays, OLED won’t be susceptible to glare, according to a report by Fox News.

The rollable TV is made from polyimide film, a material that’s much thinner than conventional plastic and gives it the flexibility needed to roll it into a tight cylinder, ABC News reported. Once rolled up, the latter has a 2.4-inch diameter, but that apparently does not take away from the high-definition display.

Photos courtesy of WSJ blog

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Koreans Toss Out TVs in Favor of Smartphones

Say anyong to television sets and anyong to mobile devices. Smartphones and tablet PCs are taking over as the dominant way to watch TV in South Korea.

South Koreans are scaling down how many TVs they own, according to a study conducted by the Korea Information Society Development Institute. There has been a growing trend of consumers who have tossed their outdated TVs due to the end of analog broadcasting in 2012 and never bothered to buy a new one.

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Instead, they are finding the convenience of portable technology to be more desirable.

In a recent door-to-door nationwide survey conducted by the institute, among the 5,000 participant households, that 77 percent of households own only one television set, which increased from 71 percent in 2012, and 69 percent in 2011.

The institute also reported that only 37 percent of the households owned analog TVs compared to 57 percent in 2011. The other 63 percent of consumers owned digital TVs.

With consumers no longer interested in a house full of TVs, the number of smartphone users was estimated to be about 38 million out of a population of 50 million people, or smartphone penetration of 76%, at the end of January.

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Tuesday's Link Attack: Forever 21, Steve Jobs Jeans, Benson Henderson

Forever 21 expands in China with support from L.A. mayor
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles-based fashion retailer Forever 21 signed an agreement Tuesday to open a flagship store in Beijing, part of a greater plan by the company to expand into the world’s largest emerging consumer market.

In a ceremony attended by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the clothing maker committed to a 24,000-square-foot retail space in a multi-story mall located in the Chinese capital’s central shopping district, Wangfujing.

Woman pleads guilty to criminally negligent homicide in death of University Park boy
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Alaska)

A Fairbanks woman pleaded guilty Monday to criminally negligent homicide for killing a University Park Elementary School student with a vehicle this fall.

Yiki Kim, 68, could be sentenced to up to four years in jail at a hearing scheduled for May, under the terms of a plea agreement.

Prosecutors said Kim was driving an SUV that ran off the road and struck 11-year-old Jamison Thun, who was standing 15 feet from the street. She originally was charged with manslaughter and reckless driving.

During Monday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Randy Olsen spent about half an hour working with a Korean interpreter to make sure Kim understood the trial rights she gave up by entering a plea agreement. Defense attorney Gary Stapp said Kim has a second-grade education and has trouble with the legal language. But he said he is convinced she understood the plea agreement.

Man killed in Winnipeg rollover mourned by friends
CBC News (Canada)

Friends of a man who was killed in a car rollover in Winnipeg over the weekend say they are still in shock.

Donghyun Kim, 21, died after the car he was a passenger in rolled over on Pembina Highway, south of the Jubilee underpass, early Saturday morning.

Three other men, all in their early 20s, were in the vehicle at the time of the rollover.

The 21-year-old driver of the vehicle has been charged with a number of offences, including impaired driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.

Also known as Ryan and “DK,” Kim was a kind man who wanted to be a dentist, according to friends.

Rabbit Punch Indiegogo Pitch from HJK on Vimeo.

Film Shoot Launch Party with James Kyson Lee, Henry J. Kim, on Dec. 15 in San Francisco
FoundAsian.org

Join James Kyson Lee and Henry J. Kim at a special event (http://on.fb.me/sfseoul) to support “No Rest for the Righteous,” a short film leading into a feature that will be the first joint project between San Francisco and Seoul production companies.

South Korean robot prison guards: R2-D2 maybe, not the Terminator
L.A. Times

South Korea is ready to wheel out its latest weapon in the war against crime: a 5-foot-tall, four-wheeled prison guard robot that will patrol the behind-bars hallways of penal institutions, even assess the mental states of prisoners.

This won’t be just any new guard to join the team. There will be no breaks, no demands for higher pay, no unprovoked attacks and not even a chance of accepting a bribe.

As South Korea battles Japan for supremacy in robot technology, designers have invented what they call a team of “friendly robots” that will not just guard prisoners but keep an eye on their well-being to boot.

South Koreans buying up iconic blue jeans preferred by Steve Jobs
L.A. Times

This holiday season, South Korean youths are snapping up a new fashion statement -– the Levi’s 501 jeans made famous by the late Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs.

South Koreans buy tons of Apple products, but, style-wise, the jeans are the new hip thing.

A poll taken by Shinsegae, a major department store here, found that the Jobs-inspired 501 look was one of the hottest sellers this year.

At $150 per pair here, the jeans cost almost as much as one of Apple’s technology products.

Whitecaps, Lee Young-Pyo agree
AP via ESPN.com

The Vancouver Whitecaps have agreed to contract terms with veteran South Korean midfielder Young-Pyo Lee.

The 34-year-old has earned 127 caps for South Korea and played in the past three World Cups.

Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said Lee can also play fullback and will help strengthen the team’s defensive backline.

Lee, who has played in South Korea, England and the Netherlands in his career, spent the past two seasons with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal. The move to Major League Soccer is pending receipt of his international transfer certificate.


Benson Henderson Talks Meeting His Korean Family and Japanese Fans
Bloody Elbow

Benson Henderson spent time in Korea while in Asia for the UFC’s press conference to formally announce UFC 144 in Tokyo, Japan. During his time in Korea he trained with Chan Sung Jung and Korean Top team and did media appearances. The big news was that he also got a chance to spend time with his mother’s side of the family in Korea. It was Ben’s first time meeting them…

7 ways to love winter in Korea
CNNGo

As anyone who has wintered in Seoul will tell you, Korean weather can be brutal.

Cold, windy and dry, winter is a nightmare for skin care. January in Seoul can make you wonder if humans were meant to hibernate after all.

But fight the cold-induced lethargy, put on a coat and go outside. Not only do you save on heating and cable bills, but more importantly, these exclusively winter activities will make it worth it.

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Check out Samsung’s transparent and flexible concept tablet (video)
Venture Beat

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New App Offers Glimpse Into North Korean Society

A new application for the iPhone and iPad gives outsiders a rare glimpse into modern North Korean society.

The free app, available here, is called Fotopedia North Korea and launched last week. It is the brainchild of French photographer Eric Lafforgue, one of the few foreign photojournalists to receive a visa to work in North Korea.

The collection of well over 1,000 high-quality photos show North Koreans in all walks of life. The collection also includes propaganda materials, public monuments and cityscapes.

Monday's Link Attack: Moon Bloodgood, Suicide Pact, Shooting Rampage

Moon Bloodgood brings love of sci-fi to Spielberg’s ‘Skies’
Boston Herald

Ever since she was a child, Bloodgood has been a fan of science fiction and horror.

That’s why she starred in “Terminator Salvation,” “Journeyman” and “Day Break.” It also explains why she wasn’t interested when she first heard about “Falling Skies.”

“I’m always going to love science fiction. That’s just a part of my personality. But I had done so much of it, and I was itching to do something else,” she told the Herald in a recent telephone interview from her Los Angeles home.

4 Killed, 1 Hurt in South Korea Shooting
AP via Time.com

A corporal in South Korea’s marine corps went on shooting rampage Monday, killing four fellow marines and wounding another on a Yellow Sea island base near the country’s tense border with North Korea, officials said.

The corporal was taken into custody on Ganghwa Island, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) west of Seoul, but his motive remained unknown, and the shooting was being investigated, Defense Ministry officials said.

South Korea plans to convert all textbooks to digital, swap backpacks for tablets by 2015
Engadget

South Korea announced this week that it plans to spend over $2 billion developing digital textbooks, replacing paper in all of its schools by 2015. Students would access paper-free learning materials from a cloud-based system, supplementing traditional content with multimedia on school-supplied tablets.

North Korean defector learns to live outside the world’s biggest prison
The Guardian (U.K.)

Rhee Kyeong-mi used to struggle to find enough food. Now she is finding it hard to adjust to abundance and choice in South Korea.

4 South Koreans Missing After Apparent Suicide Attempt
AP via New York Times

Four South Koreans were missing and one was hospitalized Sunday after they jumped into a rain-swollen river in an apparent group suicide attempt first conceived online, police said.