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The real zombie apocalypse

Jan 29,2019
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Minister of Science and ICT Yoo Young-min makes a speech at a meeting of a deliberation committee that was formed to ease regulations for start-ups at the Gwacheon Government Complex on Jan. 21. [NEWS1]
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Kim Dong-ho
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The fourth industrial revolution has become a ho-hum slogan in Korea. Despite big words, past conservative governments have all failed in deregulation, and Korea’s efforts in the digital age have stalled. Other countries have galloped away. Even Southeast Asian states have outpaced us, not to mention China.

South Korea may end up as a zombie country. In a book entitled “The Future is not Regulatable,” author Koo Tae-eon claims that a platform which dominates the digital market can access information and wealth around the globe. “As soon as a country falls under a dominant platform service provider of another country, it loses its CPM sovereignty and becomes a zombie,” he argues, using the acronym for content, privacy and money (CPM).

Korea has already become a hotbed for foreign services in the digital habitat. Most Koreans use Google, YouTube, Netflix and Facebook on a daily basis. I also spend one or two hours on their platforms for leisure, work, inspiration and connection with the rest of the world.

Through them, we are able to watch an epic drama on Scotland’s 14th-century uprising against English rule — “Outlaw King” — or Alfonso Cuarón’s new film “Roma” without having to wait for their theatrical releases. Regardless of age, we can all be wowed by a BTS music video or Lara Fabian’s version of classics like “Adagio” and “Caruso.”

I may not have such a sharp insight into the flaws of the income-led growth policy if I had not read the writings on economic growth and income distribution by Polish economist Michal Kalecki.

These platforms know me better than myself. They dig up information and programing I may like and feed my indulgences. They have become our daily nourishment, and we happily consume them without knowing that out private information and money are being taken in exchange. As our CPM resources go abroad, local broadcasters and platform providers such as Naver and Kakao are left to share what’s left.

It is hard to know and trace how much of our CPM resources have slipped out of the country. Google, YouTube and Facebook all earn revenue through ad postings, and Netflix through subscription charges. As their earnings aren’t disclosed, they cannot be taxed on the grounds that their servers and headquarters are not based in Korea.

Zombification has further accelerated under the Moon Jae-in administration. Key fourth industrial revolution technologies — sharing economy services, telemedicine and big data — have become common, not just in the biggest economies, those of the United States, China, and Japan, but also in Southeast Asian and Eastern European nations. Yet they are banned in Korea due to regulations and opposition by traditional industries. Korea is chained to the old age just as Britain was to the 19th-century Red Flag traffic laws at the dawn of the industrial revolution. While young people stay up all night watching foreign films, local lawmakers are bent on discussing fees on content.

New industries can hardly sprout and boom in the regulatory kingdom. China is home to 162 unicorns — start-ups worth $1 billion: Korea has just one. Naver has taken telemedicine technology and service to Japan, and leading game publisher Nexon is up for sale.

The so-called “regulatory sandbox,” which will exempt companies from regulations for several years, was effected this month. Applications have already reached 19. Let’s just hope the move can lead up to a bigger breakthrough against zombification.

JoongAng Sunday, Jan. 26-27, Page 30