The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) are two branches of Korea's extensive government.
There are about 15 ministry offices altogether, but these two are the ministries that come up the most often when speaking about the Korean government's involvement with the information technology industry.
One would think that these two ministries have very different goals and responsibilities. The MIC, for instance, lists three major policy goals on its English-language web site: accelerating informatization; promoting the IT industry; and deregulating and market liberalization. The MOCIE also has a convenient three point summary of its role in Korean society on its own web page. Those three points are the promotion of industry, international trade and investment; enhancement of industrial competitiveness and promotion of balanced development; and the provision of a stable and efficient energy supply.
In theory, both ministries would be occupied within their own spheres and pursue different agendas for the Korean people. The practice, however, is sometimes different. One of the conflicts lies within the technological evolution that Korean businesses and industries are pursuing -- convergence technology. The basic idea is that what were once disparate technologies and industries are coming together to be used in concert, making one new technological sector.
The best example of this is IPTV. IPTV is a new way to offer traditional television content, through existing internet connections. Where once there were discrete divisions between internet service providers (ISPs) and broadcasting companies such as KBS, this new technology application blurs the distinction between them. ISPs want to get their hands on content that entice more users to sign up for their flat monthly fee of a service, and generally don't care how much their customers use the service. Broadcasting companies, on the other hand, are very dependant on counting the number of their customers that are using their service for their primary source of revenue, which is advertisement.
In the conflict between telecoms companies and broadcasters in Korea, both sides have a champion in a different governmental ministry. The MIC has taken the side of ISPs and the MOCIE has taken up the banner of traditional broadcasting companies. Each side has been trying to control the future of this convergence industry, causing South Korea to lag behind other countries in launching its first pilot IPTV programs. In fact, the first testing project is only scheduled to begin in November or December of this year, 8 years after the first IPTV service was launched in the UK.
Another conflict between the two ministries is in the budding robotics sector. The Korean government is pushing ten new and different information technologies in order to find a new growth engine to develop its economy with its unique IT 839 Policy. This policy is managed by the MIC. One of the ten technologies is robotics, so it follows that the MIC would be involved in all robotics-related governmental promotions and events.
However, robotics has a long history in the manufacturing industry, and manufacturing falls under the oversight of the MOCIE.
This has led to an artificial bureaucratic division between robotics technologies. The MIC has defined its robotics interests as going only so far as networked robots for home use in the Ubiquitous Home concept. The MOCIE has staked its claim for robots deemed to be part of the Intelligent Robot design, which means autonomous robots which are not connected to a network, but carry all their programming and processing power around with them. At all levels of the robotics industry in Korea, there is a separation between the efforts of the MIC and the efforts of the MOCIE, even up to the different ministries working with separate international organizations to set up separate standards and classifications for robotics technologies.
The conflict sometimes stoops to the petty or negligent. The Korea Robotics Society, a collection of some several hundred robotics experts throughout the peninsula with its own journal and yearly conference, is not involved in the MOCIE-sponsored event Robot World 2007, since the Korea Robotics Society is under the auspices of the MIC.
Such a bureaucratic disagreement can create lots of unnecessary delays and red tape in any industry. If Korea is looking to maintain its dominance in information technology industries, it cannot let technological progress be slowed down by anything, least of all an intra-governmental dispute. This should not go on.