Safety and security Korean style

South Koreans value security highly. We all do, and I’m not sure they do so more than in other countries. However, some things struck my eye. For instance, there is an abundance of CCTV camera’s. In parking lots, subway, stores, PC Bangs, apartment blocks and in the streets. They are way ahead of us. Whether that’s a good thing I’m not so sure. Apparently this is being accepted. Korea being a Confucian country, one could ask whether Koreans score high on authoritarianism. In contrast, Great Brittan has many CCTV cameras as well but I suspect they don’t care much for authority, especially since the recent troubles about excessive reimbursements. So, I suspect that there maybe only a small correlation between the acceptance of CCTV and authoritarianism. At the same time, I’ve seen surprisingly little police in the streets, so far. Maybe they are all sitting indoors watching the TV’s.

Home security becomes digital as well. My front door lock comes with a pin code. No I’m not going to tell what it is. To ensure I don’t forget it, I changed it to the same one my mobile phone has. I suspect many of us do this, because with all electronic bank cards and passwords it’s becoming more secure but also  more difficult to remember them all. You’d have to be quite computer savvy to use a password manager and organize all your security info.

Another example of security I encountered was at Starbucks. Yes, as a foreigner you tend to visit Starbucks for the Wifi connection, and so far I counted three locations in Daegu. Anyhow, I opened my laptop and searched for the network. I found the network. But there it stopped. To connect to the Internet I had to provide my foreigner ID number and name. OK, so security is tight, that’s for sure. But apparently, this not only applies to foreigners: Koreans wanting to register at Cyworld have to produce an official ID as well. This means all Internet activity can be traced back to the person. This may be a downside. However, the upside is that communication on Cyworld most likely conforms more to regular social norms and activity and is less controversial.

Internet security is also serious business for the Koreans. According to The Korea Times of September 9th 2009, the Korean Communications Commission (KCC) and the Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) plan to have ISPs to monitor customer’s Internet security (e.g. malicious software, bad virus protection). If customers do not comply to minimum rules of computer safety, ISP are compelled to limit or even cut off computers from the Internet. Compare it to compulsory inoculation for the swine flu at the risk of being confined to home for long. Software companies that fail to fix their software vulnerabilities at the risk of their business being suspended. The reason for tightening security is a number of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks last July, affecting more than 80,000 computers. And then on September 13th the Korea Times reported that also 3000 cyber sherrifs are to cruise the web for suspicious activities. This all shows that the Korean government takes its responsibility, not only by promoting the online activities but also securing it.

Below are some pictures on health, safety and security in South Korea:

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The reluctant Web 2.0’er

Ever since the Internet came to my attention, I had a personal interest in it. This entailed surfing the web, downloading movies and music, reading in Usenet groups. All traditional stuff. Then came Web 2.0. And did things change? Well, yes: what was considered normal  to use did not seem normal to me. People asked me whether I Hyve (the activity to communicate and network through the Dutch social network site Hyves). Mmm, I didn’ t. “I’ll befriend you in Facebook!” someone wrote me. “Hold your horses, I don’t have a Facebook account!”, I replied. “Surely you use Twitter”, again someone else told me. “Nope, I don’t”, was my reply. This was some time ago. Not really interested from a personal point of view, that’s clear. Then again, I have my professional interests and found it necessary to experience myself to use Facebook, Hyves, LinkedIn, Twitter, Netlog, ResearcherId, Google docs, Zoho and the like. At first I only subscribed to see what the interfaces looked like, and what the applications could do. So, being a really really really passive participant. But, as often happens, one thing leads to another. Before you know it someone googles your name, and invites you to join his/her network. Well, I think it’s impolite to refuse an invitation, the more so because accepting these invites is merely a mouse click away. However, up till now I mostly accept invites from those I know. Recently I’ve been receiving invites from people unknown to me, and those that offer services that take relations to unwanted next levels. I’m sure you know what I mean. You don’t want to go there.

I’m still quite passive, only accepting invites, and rarely inviting others myself. There are those (even colleagues who shall remain nameless)  that compete with each other on who has the largest online network. This is quite similar as trying to get to most kudos on teen social network sites like Sugababes or Superdudes. But I digress…

Rereading what I am writing I must correct myself on my passivity in using SNSs: last week I even paid for a two year subscription of Flickr, the photo-sharing site. I ran out of the free online disk space. Since I have a website running at a hosting company I have ample disk space to construct my personal photo gallery. It would need some tinkering of the software and the online photo album would be a fact. But I didn’t. Instead I paid about 25 US$ for a two year expansion of the online Flickr disk space. Why? Web 2.0 is so easy to use and saves me a lot of time. And as we all know: time is money. And if I chose to setup my photo album I wouldn’t have time to post to my blog. And I know you don’t want me to stop my blog. So everyone’s happy: Flickr earned a buck, I can keep writing my blog and you can keep on reading.

WCU press coverage

Apparently the WCU project got some press coverage. One day you’ve never set foot on Korean soil, the next day you’re hitting the newspapers! Searching Google for the combination of Maurice Vergeer and WCU. Skip the first page of results (they contain our self produced web presence), results in quite a number of hits. Unfortunately, the further you go into these hits, the less I can read them. Even Google Translate can’t give a hint on what is written.

Just now I received additional hyperlinks of newspapers that followed up the WCU press release. And another one. I don’t know whether Greg Elmer and Nick Jankowski should thank me for ‘doing this. You may like it or not. But it’s part of the business.