Korea's 21st century megatrend, information technology, is creating a whole new concept of the word "ubiquitous". Constructing new buildings and towns with the word "ubiquitous" as a prefix to their name refers to a town or a building that is fully equipped with the newest information technology. Korea's push to complete a utopia by successfully implementing a ubiquitous life is encouraging the IT revolution in the country. High speed internet network access and its subscribers are top rank in the world.
The high number of subscribers to mobile phones, personal computers, and internet services also contribute to give the title "Powerful IT Country" to Korea. Not only is IT changing the world in aspects of technology and industry, but IT is also changing politics, government, economy, society, and culture. The presidential election in 2002 and the general election in 2004 suggested that Korea was transferring from an industrial society to an information society.
In economic terms, traditional industry is now moving towards information industry. That is, digital software, content, culture, brands, and media are now the leading industries to grow the Korean economy. SOHO, or high risk, high profit businesses, are expanding every day and the competition between companies is changing from quality competition to timing competition. The IT economy, however, has the side effect of causing a large gap between small and medium sized companies and big companies, or even the exporting industry and domestic industry. The government's top priority in the year 2007 was to set policies for fair competition in consideration of small and medium sized companies. Also, the IT revolution is creating a nomadic society. Korea's new concept of nomads now can wander or surf around in a cyber world in all areas including geography, jobs, education, and social class. This also can be a side effect of IT, because that means that people now spend most of their time in front of the computer instead of interacting with each other to build humanity.
IT transforms relationships
The Chinese historically praised Korean customs of sharing and living in harmony by calling us A Country of Courteous of People in the East. Koreans always have showed a strong bond between neighbors. It was a weekend ritual for entire neighborhoods in town to gather at the house one TV owning family to watch a sports game or a comedy show together. An individual often walked or rode horses for miles to reach a friend's or a relative's house and stayed in the SarangChae, or guest room. Folk tales for young readers portrays that passing travelers were even able to stay over at a random house in town for no cost. Those who are portrayed as greedy by not giving hospitality to a traveler always meet unfortunate ends in the stories. For so long, Koreans educated youngsters to treat each other from the heart, and taught to keep in contact via writing or visiting even if it takes some sacrifices. Seoul Station used to be packed with elderly women with full hands. Home grown vegetables and sorts of special food was packed in containers, then cordially wrapped in a pink cloth wraps to be given to whomever they visit.
Today, it is rare to see anyone with pink cloth wraps because developed information and technology allows them to click twice for just about anything to be delivered to the door. Who visits anyone these days, a web camera saves time and energy for most young Koreans who live in a constant cycle of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Friday, and Friday Who sits down and write cordial letters these days when using a 100 word per minute typing skill and a bunch of abbreviated written Korean one and whip up a small email in KOREA IT TIMES November 2007 _ 83 less than five minutes to keep in contact with just about anyone in your circle How about instant messaging software like MSN, Buddy Buddy, Daum, and many more By simply logging onto instant messenger, conversation starts and ends for free.
But there is one unsolved problem -- socializing. The fast developing society and economy is demanding employees to be devoted to companies. Unpaid overtime work is common for most workers in Korea. Because of this, parents no longer can really tell what their children enjoy doing and eating. Friends can't really keep up with each other even if there is a most convenient source -- email. As it is impossible to contact every single friend every day to learn what is going on in their lives, Cyworld came along to solve this problem in 1999, and hit the big time in 2004. Now Koreans spend more time and money decorating and posting pictures or diary entries in Cyworld than actually setting up a date to meet or socialize. Countless numbers of nifty and creative background pages, avatar characters, furniture and accessories for mini-rooms are sold online. Large numbers of subscribers transferred real money into acorns to decorate their spaces. SK Telecom's data shows that the sales of acorns and the number of subscribers have gradually increased each year.
Cyworld has had a great impact on the digital camera market as well. By uploading the photos of subscribers' daily lives and writing down the diary for the public to see, whole new community was created in the cyber world. Friends or relatives could leave a short message in the guest board to say hello, and could leave comments under the uploaded pictures to show that they care. Without meeting in person, everyone could know everyone's business and keep a note on each other's daily life. Parents can visit their children's Cyworld homepage and become aware of the things that their children are interested in as well. If it were old tradition to build relationships by physical contact, now the trend is changing to communicate and interact online in the most productive way.
Some evidence still proves that Korea is still a Country of Courteous People in the East. Korea probably is the only country where citizens are so eager to leave comments on every single news item posted online. So many individual blogs upload controversial video clips and gossip video clips and the number comments written under the video clips are unbelievable. For instance, www.newson.nate.com is the number one news site where citizens participate to share their opinion on every possible social issue and celebrity's life. Other sites like www.news.naver.com are running active right now, too.
The Korean way of social participation and building relationships has changed a lot since the past. "The development of IT," says Professor Im Hyung-baeg, "is putting Koreans in a virtual community, and people feel their existence through communication they make within the virtual community."