The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: IT Korea (page 1 of 16)

Daum and Kakao Are On a First Name Basis

Kakao Corp. and Daum Communications announced that they will adopt the anti-hierarchical office culture of Kakao Corp.  after their merger in October.  All workers and executives will be required to call each other by English first names:  “Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”

From Yonhap: “Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” said Kang Yukyeong, a communications official at Daum.

From Korea Times:  “All workers at Kakao call co-CEO Lee Sir-goo by his English first name Vino.”  Kakao employee Dallas said he felt “‘kind of awkward’ when he first joined Kakao about six months ago.  ‘It didn’t take so long before I became used to being called my English name and calling others by their English names. I realized we are encouraged to make active communication in the office even with CEO.’”

State-sponsored Arirang News broadcast a piece, IT companies in Korea change corporate culture to promote innovation (video starts at 9:02):  “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?  A recent innovation index ranked Korea 16th out of 77 countries– higher than Japan or China.   But when it came to the so-called tolerance index, which measures how much a society tolerates different values and thoughts, Korea was ranked near the bottom at 62.”

The C- Word

News sources and quoted experts cited the move as an attempt to counter Confucian culture:

Yonhap stated in its article,”addressing employees of different ranks by their first name is uncommon in South Korea, where corporate culture is often perceived as rigid and is operated along regimented and hierarchical lines, a reflection of the country’s Confucian roots. Such hierarchy at workplaces is palpable in local companies….”

Arirang News aired a (translated) statement from Kim Jae-hee, Professor of Psychology at Chungang University, “if we look at our Confucianist culture, we were taught that there is a right answer to everything. We were never taught to look for new answers. To foster creativity, we need to learn that there isn’t just one correct answer to everything and understand there could be multiple answers.” 


Arirang posed an interesting question: “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?”  

If so, how effectively and at what social or cultural cost?

I suspect that the change in some Korean major players’ corporate culture will carry over to Korean corporate culture in general.  When casual Fridays and then casual dress came into corporate culture, employees liked and perceived it as a benefit.  Employers saw casual dress as a no-cost benefit, and companies that resisted discovered how much the labor marketplace valued casual dress.  I suspect that young, professional Korean talent will similarly place a value on casual address companies.

Will this spillover into wider Korean culture and be the end to Korea’s deeply rooted hierarchical culture?  I think ‘yes’, and we are witnessing a seminal moment.

Something Wicked This Way Comes . . .

There has always been this fear that Chinese technology firms will knock-off major Korean businesses like Samsung or LG and now, these concerns seem to be coming closer to realization: Samsung has lost its top spot in cellphone manufacturing, in China, to an upstart Chinese firm Xiaomi – which makes an android-varient OS and gear that looks a whole lot like Apple’s.

Oddly enough, even their founder looks like a Steve Jobs knock-off.  Can’t he manage something original!?

A Steve Jobs knock-off?

A Steve Jobs knock-off?

Update

Right on the heels of this news, Samsung and Apple have called a truce to their legal pugilism outside of the US.  I suspected that something of this sort would happen and, yep, it certainly did.

U.S. Military Hacked in South Korea

The details of up to 16,000 South Koreans that have worked for the U.S. Command here have been hacked. (link)

According to the military, the affected system (hack) is a human resources recruiting system separate from the U.S. military network  

Maybe that is 16,000 Koreans that will be getting loan offers from companies in the PRC?

Samsung sues newspaper over report on Galaxy 5

Samsung has launched a KRW 300 million lawsuit against Korean IT newspaper The Electronic Times for running an article that questioned whether the company would be able to launch the Galaxy 5 on time:

Last month ET News published claims that Samsung was having trouble producing Galaxy S5 cameras putting the device’s April 11th launch in jeopardy. Samsung states that’s not true. The Korean publication stood by its claims, refusing to change the story when requested by Samsung.

Samsung is now suing for 300 million KRW – about $284,000. The lawsuit was confirmed to TechCrunch by a Samsung representative.

I will say this about the Electronic Times—they aren’t sitting back and taking it. Since Samsung issued its demand for a correction, the paper has been firing back with a flood of articles criticizing Samsung, reports Pressian. So much so that Samsung is accusing the paper of using articles as a weapon. The Electronic Times, meanwhile, is accusing Samsung of using its economic power to “tame” the media.

Now, I have no idea whether the report in the Electronic Times was true or not. That said, Pressian and Media Today note that rather than take its case to the Press Arbitration Commission, the usual practice in cases like this, Samsung chose to launch a lawsuit straight away just two weeks after the store was printed. If true, this might lead some to suspect there’s something else going on here, even if Samsung has legitimate cause for complaint with the Electronic Times.

Now, as somebody who a) likes Samsung products, b) views Samsung as a symbol of Korean drive and ingenuity and therefore wants them to succeed but c) is simultaneously scared shitless of the company because of stuff like this, I’d caution Samsung that in terms of PR, lawsuits of this sort often cause more harm than good. As Media Today notes, Samsung launched the lawsuit because it was worried the Electronic Times’ report would spread and impact sales. Since the lawsuit, however, the foreign press—including FOX News—and big tech bloggers have picked up the story. This is probably NOT the effect Samsung intended. To make matters worse, a story at AppleInsider compares the Korean electronics giant rather unfavorably to the Cupertino Fruit Company, which—assuming the report is true—almost never sues newspapers/blogs despite the countless groundless rumors that accompany the release of just about every iPhone model.

Ummm, My Samsung Has A Hole in It . . .

Funny, it turns out that there is a huge backdoor in Samsung Android phones that lets anyone that wants remote access to that phone in.  Per the Replicant site:

Samsung Galaxy devices running proprietary Android versions come with a back-door that provides remote access to the data stored on the device.
In particular, the proprietary software that is in charge of handling the communications with the modem, using the Samsung IPC protocol, implements a class of requests known as RFS commands, that allows the modem to perform remote I/O operations on the phone’s storage. As the modem is running proprietary software, it is likely that it offers over-the-air remote control, that could then be used to issue the incriminated RFS messages and access the phone’s file system.

A DPRK Cyber Weapon To Contend with – Point-of-sale Botnets

DPRK-cardConsidering the DPRKs threat to cause mayhem in South Korea, there is one way that could be used by them to attack the economy here and the latest tool is the point-of-sale cash register that are in so many businesses everywhere.

As of this week, Target – an American chain store – has had all of its 1,800 or so stores across the country “targeted” by a massive botnet that stole up to 40 million credit card numbers, PIN number and other details from in-store shoppers, over a 19-day period.  Apparently Target had suspected they were being hacked at least as far back as August and had blocked non-US traffic to their store website but they could not prevent the results.

Unlike other attempts to raid data servers in one location, infected POS machines can be turned into a gigantic botnet that collects credit information.  The economic harm from this one episode has attracted the attention of the Secret Service as well (link).

The sophistication of this newer type of botnet is notable:

. . . (the newer botnet software is) much more advanced. It allows attackers to corral large numbers of PoS devices into a single botnet. The interface makes it easy to monitor the activities of infected machines in real time and to issue granular commands. In short, they are to PoS terminals what ZeuS, Citadel, and other banking trojans are to online bank accounts. The code helping to streamline the process has been dubbed StarDust. It’s a major revision of Dexter, a previously discovered piece of malware targeting PoS devices that has already been fingered in other real-world payment card swindles. (link)

This means that after infecting a large number of POS registers, the network can operate in coordinated attacks and can be very difficult to shutdown.  Apparently the latest strains of this software (V2 Stardust & V3 Revolution) have ties to Russian criminal networks and is for sale too.

If this sort of attack is used to attack the many under-protected POS machines in South Korea – the source of so many botnets already – what would happen if a concerted effort by the DPRK hackers to take down the entire South Korean economy by coordinated botnet attacks on local business, banks, etc. were attempted?

I shudder at this point . . .

Food for thought: Just replace the product and apologize for any inconvenience

On Dec. 2 Canadian Richard Wygand posted a YouTube video alleging that his Galaxy S4 was dangerously defective.  In the video Wygand says, “I just plugged it in to charge it. Went to sleep, woke up to smoke and a little bit of burning.”

Samsung didn’t take too kindly to the allegations and demanded Wygand pull the video down. They should’ve figured he would post another video about the company’s demands.

(Wygand) said that in order to receive a “similar model” replacement phone, Samsung allegedly asked that he first sign a legal document that would require him to remove his videos from YouTube, remain silent about the agreement and surrender any possible future claims against the company.

Both videos have gone viral and well, there has to be some head scratching going on somewhere. You can read the rest here and see both videos.

(H/T to Joe McP)

photo credit: Fr3d.org via photopin cc

The Apple vs. Samsung Chronicles: The US Steps in For the Sake of Innovation

Upon the advice of Michael Froman, the United States trade representative and the president’s adviser on international trade issues, the Obama administration has vetoed a federal commission’s ban that would have forced Apple to stop selling some iPhones and iPads in the United States next week due to an infringement on a Samsung-held patent related to transmission of data over cellular networks.

This is the first time since 1987 an administration has vetoed an international Trade Commission ban.

(Mr. Froman) wrote in his decision issued on Saturday that it was based in part on the “effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.” . . .  Mr. Froman said his decision did not mean that Samsung was “not entitled to a remedy. On the contrary, the patent owner may continue to pursue its rights through the courts.”

Susan Kohn Ross, an international trade lawyer for Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, said the administration’s veto announced on Saturday will effectively remove a major bargaining chip for Samsung that could have disrupted Apple’s manufacturing facilities for making iPhones and iPads.

As per the comments section on this report file on the NYTimes, one comment summarizes nicely:

Samsung copied Apple products and then tried to use patents in an illegal way to avoid the consequences: if they get away with this, they can force Apple to ignore the copying or else get products banned.

The Samsung patents at issue here are part of a wireless standard — you’re required to use their invention to connect to some networks. In order to be included in the standard, Samsung promised to license them in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. But for Apple, which used wireless chips from companies that had already paid the licensing fees, Samsung demanded enormous additional fees.

This exact issue has already been litigated in several courts around the world, and this practice has never been allowed. In fact, Samsung faces a potential fine of billions of dollars in Europe for doing this.

All of the other big technology companies support Apple in this matter, since allowing what Samsung has done would wreck the whole standards system.

A New York Times Blog article on this is here.

Buy hey, at least Pirate Bay isn’t blocked… for now

First they came for the P2P operators. Then they went after the Webhards. Now they are going after the torrents:

Police are investigating more than 50 file-sharing enthusiasts as part of a crackdown against online piracy, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Thursday.

Authorities so far have booked 12 operators of some of the country’s largest peer-to-peer file sharing websites and 41 of their biggest customers, who have each uploaded more than 1,000 ”seed’’ files to these websites in the five months through May.

They also raided the offices of 26 hosting companies, looking for servers connected to copyright infringement as they clamp down harder on the unlawful movement of movies, music and games. This is the nation’s first strike targeted at ”torrenting.’’

The Korea Herald takes a look at Korea’s long war against copyright infringement.

One of the folk who was arrested was a 15-year-old kid who opened his own Torrent site.

Seeing how the government hasn’t moved to block sites like Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, it seems to me they are primarily concerned—at least for now—with blocking copyright infringements of Korean content.

A KEB Hack that Did Not Happen – Supposedly

The Hacking Group Anonymous, claimed in a tweet, to have hacked the Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) and have leaked 15k users private data.  They also refered to themselves as “Korea Cyber Army”.

A representative of KEB very quickly declared that the information that Anonymous posted was not subscriber information (these are not the droids you are looking for), however the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) declared the following day that they were effecting “an all-out overhaul on network security systems at major financial companies in a bid to prevent them from being exposed to cyber attacks that may result in a serious breach of private data.” This is the same FSS that can’t seem to get all the credit cards switched to the chip and PIN system in a timely manner because the banks are dragging their feet.  (The chip and PIN system is also hacked but not as much as the magnetic swipe cards that are still in use in South Korea.)

Perhaps someone has gotten caught with their pants down and is in denial?

And then there’s Samsung…

CNN tech guy Philip Elmer-DeWitt believes he may have “touched a nerve at Samsung HQ“:

On Saturday, following Samsung Taiwan’s admission that it had paid anonymous posters to trash a competitor’s products on Taiwanese social media sites, I posted a story about the growing suspicion among Apple (AAPL) investors that Samsung was engaged in a similar campaign against Apple — and that it might be affecting the company’s share price.

The post drew more that the usual number of comments. Twenty six hours later, we’re up to 343 messages and counting. Some readers supported the thesis. Some ridiculed it. Some attacked Apple. Some attacked me.

That kind of thing comes with the territory, although not usually in such numbers or with such vehemence. But what happened at about 2 a.m. EST — Sunday afternoon in Seoul, South Korea — was new.

In the space of a few hours, more than a thousand votes were cast on the DISQUS feedback system, voting down any comment remotely anti-Samsung and voting up anything — no matter how inane, in-artful or wrong — that disparaged Apple, the thesis, or me.

Sounds more like the work of Samsung fanboys or patriotic netizens than Samsung itself, but I suppose anything is possible.

Personally, I think Seoul Village might have it right:

Samsung Trolling HTC Phone Reviews?

Samsung has reportedly been hiring student trolls to bad mouth HTC cellphones in Taiwan, on web reviews. (cite).

According to Samsung, based in South Korea, the “unfortunate incident” had gone against the company’s “fundamental principles”.

I didn’t know they actually had invested in RD for principles either.

Anonymous hack of N. Korea sites entertains conservative press

The Anonymous hack of Uriminzokkiri and North Korea’s social media sites has got conservative South Korean papers like the Chosun Ilbo giddy.

In particular, the quite like how the list of Uriminzokkiri’s 9,001 members got leaked. On it are apparently a large number of South Koreans, and South Korea’s diligent netizens have been busy trying to figure out who they are. They claim to have found members of the United Progressive Party, an official from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a university professor, a teacher with the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, a reporter, a former university students association president, and an airline pilot.

Police caution that people could have registered under false names, so just because they’re on the list doesn’t mean it’s actually them.

A prosecutor told the Chosun Ilbo that while they did conduct an investigation on about 70 people connected to a locally opened pro-North Korean cyber cafe in 2010, they’ve never seen a list as big as this one.

In principle, joining Uriminzokkiri in South Korea is illegal (the site is, in fact, blocked), so if you’re on the list, you can be punished. Practically speaking, however, The Man is unlikely to punish you if you can demonstrate you needed to join it for work reasons. If you can’t—and especially if you posted stuff to the site or reposted its material—you’re likely to face punishment.

Some progressive figures, meanwhile, are calling the release of the list a violation of communication and privacy laws. Which, to be frank, it most certainly is.

UPDATE: See the Anonymous statement at the end of this article.

South Korea Needs A Cyber Overhaul

Though there is talk as in the editorials of one newspaper about cybersecurity:

Cybersecurity is a totally new security concept without public and private sector divides, not to mention a critical absence of national borders. The government also must devise a detailed . . . blah, blah, blah

and the Financial Supervisory Service started a special probe the other day into banks and financial institutions to “find out what caused last week’s network paralysis”, one salient and interesting fact remains – especially on the heels of the attack on banks and various institutions in South Korea – that, as of the last quarter of 2012, South Korea led the ranking of countries most infected by malware (57.30 percent of infected PCs).

Maybe it is time for a sea-change in South Korea, regarding how badly personal computers are kept.  Attacks like the massive on-going one that has occurred recently against spamhaus could only happen because the average users of computers do not know about security though everyone has a lock on their door.  South Korea could at least teach people better safety habits and promote better software that is not so obviously compromised since it is the average user’s infected computer that becomes an unwitting tool at the hacker’s fingertips.

Malware in 3.20 Attack came from China, might be North Korea

The government revealed today that the malware used in yesterday’s cyberattack came from an IP address in China. Given that North Koreans hackers usually use the Chinese Internet, this means it’s possible that the attack was orchestrated by North Korea.

They haven’t ID’d the attack yet, though, so they are leaving all possibilities open. Experts talking to MoneyToday say the malware code is similar to ones North Korea has used in the past. It’ll likely take several months to find the culprits, though.

Oh, and it will take four to five days for the affected companies to get their systems back to normal.

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