Microsoft says, “Why can’t Europe be more like South Korea?”

(…In the palm of our hand.)

We often have homestay students from Korea and Japan. I have set up the family computer (Windows XP) with both a Korean and a Japanese account, in case the students need to use a computer and do not have their own. It’s amazing the degree to which Korean content on the Internet completely depends on Microsoft. Every time Korean students are using the computer, their favourite webpage is almost always broken because they require some ActiveX plugin, and their accounts don’t have permission to install such nonsense. I’m reluctant to, as well, after seeing either (some Korean text I do not understand) or some gibberish to the same effect.

Anyway, I’ve always been really curious why Korea seemed so Microsoft centric. Gen Kanai has a couple posts on the topic and they’re incredibly fascinating. Well, I think so.

This nation is a place where Apple Macintosh users cannot bank online, make any purchases online, or interact with any of the nation’s e-government sites online. In fact, Linux users, Mozilla Firefox users and Opera users are also banned from any of these types of transactions because all encrypted communications online in this nation must be done with Active X controls.

Where is this nation?

South Korea.

Due to an early (pre-US-export approval and pre-standardization) adoption of the 128bit SSL encryption protocol, and the death of Netscape, Koreans were left with the single option of Internet Explorer and Active X plugins to do any sensitive transactions on the Internet. This has left Korean Internet content largely inaccessible to other browsers (leading one group to sue the government), and in a funny twist of fate, also prevents (or strongly discourages) the upgrade to Vista (by sheer amounts of work required).

If you’re interested, I recommend reading the posts (1, 2) for more details.

I’ve always been impressed by South Korea’s very accessible high bandwidth, but I certainly don’t envy this.


  1. I think it’s the most ironic (to microsoft, perhaps) thing that while the entire nation depends on Microsoft tech, it’s also nearly impossible to move forward with the tech because of Microsoft tech.

    They’ll just be stuck with IE6 (and hence WinXP) for life, while the rest of the world moves forward. It has to be the best experimental example of why sticking with proprietary technology can cause problems in the future.

  2. Alex,

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Koreans can run the latest Explorer versions or use other browser formats.

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