Why 99.4% of Koreans Use Windows

Seoul Digital CityThat’s right. 99.4% of PCs run Windows in Korea (as of 2002). This is something that strikes many people who come here, and who have any interest in technology/computers/software, is how completely tied to Windows its users are. As I said in a recent post, Koreans love them some Microsoft. Gen asked me to query this “addiction” among programmers at FutureCamp (Seoul). I wasn’t able to attend, so couldn’t pose this question to the people there…

But it’s an interesting topic that is key to understanding digital culture in Korea. Indeed, it’s a challenge for Linux users, Mozilla Firefox users and Opera users, who are effectively unable to do anything connected to e-government, online banking, or internet shopping because all encrypted communications online in this nation must be done with Active X controls. As I’ve been told by numerous helpdesk or service reps (as a non-Windows user in Korea), “Aiyah, just install Windows, like the rest of us!”

So why Windows? Basically, it’s a combination of negligence (from the Ministry of Information and Communication) who made some poor decisions back in 1998 with SEED and ActiveX, and also a general public apathy about the issue. For all the technical details, see Gen’s recent post on the topic. Another good source is run by citizen group OpenWeb Korea, who are trying to increase public awareness of the issue, as well as take legal action against the government. They offer a detailed history and overview of the Korean Web “Saga” in a downloadable .ppt file.

In fact, it will be interesting to see whether the recent release (and subsequent de facto stalled release) of Vista in Korea will revive the debate on standards and open source.



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