Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Death of email in S. Korea

Interesting cultural perspective from South Korea. Email seen as overly-formal. Use is giving way to SMS and IM amongst the under-30s.

Remember: this is the country where broadband penetration is huge (and the bandwidth available to most homes is substantially higher than is typical in the US or UK). I used to work for one of the Samsung companies. It's an unusual culture: kind of Japanese, but less formal (perhaps deliberately so).

(For "mini-homepages," perhaps we should read, "blogs"?)

This from Chosun...

The email era is coming to an end because replacement communication means such as Internet messengers, mini-homepages (dubbed "one-man media"), and SMS are wielding their power. As a consequence, the stronghold of email, once the favorite of the Internet, is being shaken from its roots.

The ebbing of email is a phenomenon peculiar to Korea, an IT power. Leading the big change, unprecedented in the world, are our teens and those in their 20's. The perception that "email is an old and formal communication means" is rapidly spreading among them. "I use email when I send messages to elders," said a college student by the name of Park. For 22-year-old office worker Kim, "I use email only for receiving cellphone and credit card invoices."

A poll conducted by Chungbuk University computer education professor Lee Ok-hwa on over 2,000 middle, high school and college students in Gyeonggi and Chungcheong provinces in October revealed that more than two-thirds of the respondents said, "I rarely use or don't use e-mail at all."

The reasons given for shunning email are that it's impossible to tell whether an addressee has received a message right away and replies are not immediately forthcoming. Still another reason is that you send messages through SMS or messenger as if you were playing a game, while doing so through email makes you feel as if you are doing homework or performing a task. "The new generation hate agonizing and waiting and tend to express their feelings immediately," said Professor Lee. "The decline of email is a natural outcome reflecting such characteristics of the new generation."

The ebb of email is confirmed by a diminishing trend in pageviews, a tabulation of frequency in service used by email users. Daum Communication, the top email business in the country, saw its email service pageviews fall over 20 percent from 3.9 billion in October last year to 3 billion in October this year. By contrast, with SK Telecom, the nation's No. 1 communication firm, monthly SMS transmissions skyrocketed over 40 percent in October from 2.7 billion instances last October. Cyworld, a representative mini-homepage firm, witnessed its pageviews multiply over 26-fold from 650 million instances in October last year to 17 billion in October this year.

"Email's efficiency falls in terms of promptness, convenience and credibility," observed Yoo Hyon-ok, president, SK Communications. "With the continuous emergence of new communication means, communication formats will develop further in the future."

(Kim Ki-hong, dama90@chosun.com)

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