Speakers at the South Korean Government-funded conference, iPark London, claimed that South Korea's technological advances and business practices are rapidly overtaking international competitors.
The country has become the research and development laboratory of the global new economy, according to the message from the conference, and is attracting Western business interest at a rapidly growing rate.
Whilst the UK has experienced growing pains in implementing ADSL broadband, South Korea has the world's highest penetration of broadband and wireless internet usage and its technology industry ranks as one of the most globally advanced. It is currently implementing a national 3G mobile phone network, having had 2.5G for one-and-a-half years. Britain is currently introducing 2.5G services in some areas of the country.
Ten million of South Korea's 14.3 million households have 2 Mbps broadband connections - what the UK calls 'business broadband'. South Koreans pay 60-80 per cent of the price UK consumers pay for a 500 Kbps 'standard' connection.
National Government and private providers are now introducing 'VDSL' connections, offering subscribers connection speeds of 20 Mbps.
|"Technological advances in South Korea are exceptional"|
|Fraser Norman, iPark London|
Three quarters of South Korean households have a PC thanks to Government subsidies and there is free Government IT training for all citizens. What's more, all schools in South Korea have broadband Internet connections.
By way of comparison, Charles Clarke, the Education and Skills Secretary, recently announced an extra £287 million to provide all schools with broadband capability by 2006 on top of the £71 million already announced for next year.
When comparing its IT prowess to other countries across a range of factors - market size, population of skilled IT engineers, investment in telecoms, computing power and the amount of technology exports - South Korea ranks second only to the United States.
More Western IT hardware manufacturers are being drawn to South Korea
The country has also trailed some novel approaches to e-Government, for which it ranks second in the world, after the US.
In a recent election, Roh Moo-hyun, a Presidential candidate, orchestrated a mass SMS campaign targeting some 800,000 citizens, urging them to vote for him.
Internet sites simultaneously featured video clips of his speeches as well as streaming audio and written news updates. Seven thousand voters logged onto his website each day during the elections.
After Mr Moo-hyun successfully took power from the previous ruling party, an online 'fan club' created for him attracted 70,000 registered users.
Fraser Norman, one of the iPark London organisers, and an agent for Korean businesses looking for business in the West, said: "The Koreans are coming! Literally hundreds of Korean businesses are coming into the European marketplace this year offering advance skills and production capabilities."
Key skills sets being offered to Western companies currently include: broadband provision; firewalls; CAD; virus protection systems; network solutions; 3G mobile phone capabilities; Linux development; systems integration; and, embedded software.
Mr Norman said some Korean manufacturing was also being set up in the West, with an LCD display manufacturing plant most recently being set up in the Netherlands. But he conceded most manufacturing would end up being done in Korea.
Over the last few months, Mr Norman said he and other colleagues had been working with other iParks representing South Korea in Silicon Valley, Boston, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, and Singapore.
Key partners and back offices of Korean businesses looking for a Western presence are often based in Eastern European countries.
"Technological advances in South Korea are exceptional," Mr Norman said, "and businesses in other countries are keen to learn from it. Pioneering advances in e-commerce that see Koreans using their individual ID cards to pay for goods and services online securely are a major point of interest at the moment."
Jim O'Reilly, a colleague of Mr Norman's, said there was still some fraud over online transactions in South Korea, but that the less than hospitable prisons in the country acted as a strong deterrent against online criminal activity.
Richard Powell, © Shout99.com 2003