Often called the most wired country in the world, Korea is a major power of information technology or so people have thought. The latest criticism of the domestic industry by a famous insider was thus a shocking reminder of why the nation cannot afford to remain complacent with where it stands now. After enumerating problems facing industrialists, consumers and policymakers, he said, ven Bill Gates would find it hard to succeed in Korea's industrial environment.
Ahn Chul-soo (Charles Ahn), CEO of AhnLab, Inc., Korea's leading developer of anti-virus programs, first took issue with consumers, who are accustomed to illegal copying of computer software amid the widespread, mistaken notion that it is free. n a country where unlawful piracy and bogus SW products dominate the market, no company can grow up as a global firm, however excellent their technologies are,Ahn said in a recent contribution to his company's Internet homepage.
The government's crackdowns have become annual events but their effects are short-lived. Needless to say, proper protection of intellectual property rights is the most important thing in software and other information technology industries. Korea, however, has been on the priority watch list of the U.S. Trade Representative with respect to IPR issues. With or without U.S. coercion, the nation's software industry cannot develop unless Seoul drastically enhances IPR protection.
No less problematic is the industry itself. Large system integration companies, armed with sufficient funds from intersubsidiary transactions, are crowding out creative small- and medium-sized developers short of cash. Some marginal businesses, which have long lost their competitiveness, also stay in the market through dumping and other irregular marketing practices thanks to lind moneyfrom government subsidies.
Encouraging these malpractices are government agencies and state enterprises, which put priority on budget savings rather than system quality in public procurement policies. What all these things lead up to is that while the government has loudly trumpeted the importance of the IT industry as the future growth engine, it has actually created an environment very hostile to its growth. Korea's IT sector cannot make a second leap without a qualitative infrastructure congruous to its quantitative expansion.
/ By The Korea Times