Blog Post

Google, YouTube & Korean Connections.

What does South Korea have to do with YouTube-Google merger? Nothing blatant or obvious, yet a lot!

South Korea is one of the most wired societies and has been a broadband leader for a while. The country also has a unique position from a wireless broadband/3G perspective, and is pushing hard to develop the fourth generation wireless technologies. South Korea is a microcosm a broadband future, and Google could learn a lot from it – especially when it comes to online video.


Google recently announced that it would invest at least $10 million on an R&D center in Seoul, Korea, reports the Korea Herald, and hire 130-150 researchers. Alan Eustace, Google senior VP for engineering, told the Korea Times that they want to recruit local computer scientists to “further develop innovative search technologies for Korean users and users around the world.”

For years, Korean television viewers have been able to watch their favorite shows online. The shows are offered not by a third party like the Apple iTunes Store or Google Video, but by the TV companies themselves, who provide complete archives of their shows that can be downloaded or streamed, either for free or for pennies.

In Korea, online video is not an experiment—it is a success. It is a daily reality for most Koreans, not just for the young crowd or the techie set. The entire society has lived the broadband lifestyle for a while now, and is more attuned to its potential.

Google is smart to invest $10 million in a research lab in this broadband country. They can grab local engineers—but, much more importantly, they can learn about the local broadband “culture.” Korean Internet usage habits point the way toward what habits of American users will be like when broadband becomes as ubiquitous as it is in Korea.

8 Responses to “Google, YouTube & Korean Connections.”

  1. Unlike S. Korea a size similar to NJ, US has at least 100 times more space to cover for the faster broad band equivalent to S. Korea. Either triple the ATM/SONET back bone speed or deliver fiber to curve technology to every neighborhood of US, US will never achive the speed of S. Korea who has less space to cover. Also it’s the people’s demand, in U.S., who wants to watch news or soap opera on their cell phone? Accoustomed to bigger and better things, U.S. Consumers will not accustomed to watching NBA or NFL on their mobile phones. 3G or 4G is not the issue, it’s the culture that drives the technology.

  2. Jesse Kopelman

    How short the naysayer’s memories are. 5 years ago people were talking about how SMS would never be a hit in the US like it was in other countries. Guess what, we may still not have caught up usage-wise, but SMS is a huge financial success for carriers and is a still growing revenue source. Because the US is so relatively populous and affluent, a service doesn’t need to hit the huge penetration rates here it might need to overseas to be profitable.

  3. I agree with Eric Eldon. The behavour of people in South Korea has nothing to do with the behavour of people in other countries. Other Asian countires, like Taiwan, Japan and Singapore, are more technologically advanced than the US and Europe. That does not mean that what happens in those countries will eventually happen in the US and Europe, because the culture is totally different.

  4. What works in Korea doesn’t necessarily work in the US, and the differences can be socio-cultural instead of technological.

    For example, Korea’s ohmynews.com is one of the most successful examples of a “citizen journalism” site in the world. Bayosphere, a US interpretation from a couple years back, is not — even though the ways the sites work are similar. For some reason, Koreans have felt more interested in writing and commenting on news stories on a central online news site.

    Maybe Korea is a good microcosm for broadband user behavior, but Google taking yet another gamble with its cash hoard doesn’t equal evidence for that.

  5. Also the user-generated video era seems to be dying out a bit in Korea since it started earlier over there. Some Korean companies are now trying to create incentives for people to generate their short video clips, which some of my friends in Seoul believe it’s a bad sign for things in come. I’m not sure if the U.S. will follow this pattern since I assume there is a lot more creative energy when it comes to the art & entertainment space, but who knows?

    Either way, I still believe the middle market of the movie industry will be one of the real winners of this changing entertainment landscape a decade from now.