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April 01, 2007

Heart and Seoul

The GIO team landed in Seoul, South Korea last night, in preparation for our deep dive on media and content, and so far the trip has been, well, interesting. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were greeted by a phalanx of security guards, metal detectors, and a bank of reporters at the ready with cameras and microphones. At first I thought the GIO had really taken off, and the local media was eager for a few sound bytes. 

Alas, all the fuss was about the free-trade agreement that was being negotiated between the U.S. and South Korea. The free trade agreement, known as the KORUS FTA, is a pretty big deal. It’s the biggest trade agreement the U.S. has entered into since NAFTA. And there’s $20 billion of additional trade between the two countries at stake. Early Monday morning, negotiators at the hotel we’re staying at reached an 11th hour agreement on the deal.

Like all free trade agreements, this one is controversial. Before the two nations reached the agreement, there were a number of sticking points: auto tariffs, agricultural trade (especially of American beef and South Korean rice), and copyright protection. And there were numerous protests, including hunger strikes and candlelight vigils.

But what was so fascinating about this slightly harrying experience has been the media coverage of the events. Korea is a land of near ubiquitous Internet access. And it seemed that there was not a single person in all of Seoul that wasn’t getting instant updates on the progress of the negotiations (the deadline was extended several times, and talks alternately progressed and stalled throughout the week.) Unlike the United States, mobile phones here are much more than communications devices. They are delivery mechanisms. They are like little newspapers in your pocket. And one of the most popular news sources in the country is Ohmynews, a citizen journalist site that has 43,000 contributors.

It got us thinking about how a ubiquitous Internet environment actually impacts the nature of content, media and otherwise.  By now the rest of the world knows that Korea is years ahead of other developed nations in its use of wireless technology. So the question is, what kinds of content are appropriate for that medium, and how can the rest of the world learn from Korea’s example?

That’s among the topics that we’ll be mining at the deep dive tomorrow, which will feature representatives from media companies, academic institutions, and government organizations from Japan to Australia. And we’ll be keenly interested in learning what the rest of the world will look like when we finally catch up to Korea.

April 1, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink

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