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Move over Google – Daum dominates Korean Internet
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승인 2009.07.18  11:43:57
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▲ Visitors to the Daum Global Media Center, the Jeju-based headquarters of Korean Internet giant Daum, are greeted by a dolhareubang (grandfather statue) using a laptop. No doubt www.daum.com is his homepage. Photo courtesy Daum Global Media Center

I had one thing on my mind because it involved returning to my favorite cappuccino spot; a treasured secret until now. It was also a pleasure to venture out to the edge of the city, where, nestled on the road up to Jeju National University is a spectacular view of Hallasan. This grand view provides a daily dose of beauty for the employees at the Daum Global Media Centre. OK, Daum was the second thing on my mind after the cappuccino.

Minutes away from my neighborhood in Ara-Dong, the Daum Global Media Centre serves as one of the important facilities in this Internet media provider's services to Korea. One of my favorite buildings in Jeju, the structure is modern and full of surprising angles and perspectives.

Daum is an Internet and media content services provider that was founded in 1995. At that time the fledgling company began to establish itself as a portal site, much like Yahoo. Since then a variety of new and innovative services have been rolled out to the public.

One of the early successes in 1997 included Hanmail, the free e-mail account. To date there are now currently about 38 million registered Hanmail accounts. In 1999, Daum launched a soon-to-be- famous community network called the Daum Cafe. This provided registered users a community where cafe creators could discuss, post and open any topic imaginable. The additional benefit was that interested people could also join a cafe (or as many as they like) and post comments and further the community discussion.

There are currently 7 million cafes hosted by Daum. That's a lot of cafes! Now a major contender in the Korean Internet market, online news was expanded and launched in 2003. Daum was now really becoming a full content and media provider.

Recently blogging services were offered (2004) and now “The View,” where You Tube-style video viewing is demanded by savvy Korean Internet users. One of the amazing services I use is the high resolution mapping, which also enables you to look from the “street view” perspective; you can look around at street level and see the businesses, and landscape for almost any major street in Korea. Stunning.

Daum's organizational structure is based on search, content, shopping, media services (such as Agorra's popular discussion forums), community video content, communication services for mobile phone users (mapping etc.), and entertainment.

Children's content was a recent addition for the 13- to 16-year-old segments and then for young children. Animation and gaming are also a must to compete for users (since 2007-08). The company is also global in scope, having purchased Lycos in America some years ago.

The Manager of External Affairs, Jeong-Hye Choi, explained that the Global Media Centre (GMC) houses 60 to 70 staff who work on the media content (news, weather, sports, etc.), government relations staff and computer engineers, web designers, and other key support staff. The GMC facility staff numbers around 200 people, but is still only a portion of the 800-plus staff located at the headquarters in Seoul and other support staff located in Jeju.

Although no concrete timeline was given, the exciting news for Jeju is that Daum will be locating all of its operations to Jeju over a period of the next few years and groundbreaking is underway at the Industrial Park beside Jeju National University.

Foreigners here might take it for granted that everyone uses Google. Well it's not even a close second in Korea! Search, of course, is one of the keys to successfully attracting users. The unique style of categorical search results from the main Korean search sites has maintained such a strong loyalty among users that Google notably changes its search results style.

Typical search results break up, or categorize, results by cafe, news, portal sites, video and blog content listings. It is so intuitive, once you try it its hard to go back to Google's billions of results in one list (of which I never go beyond the first page). To give you an idea of the “local to Korea” loyalty Internet users exhibit here the search market share is led by Naver, 50.3 percent; Daum, 36.4 percent; Yahoo, 7 percent; Nate, 5.8 percent; and Google has a very distant 0.5 percent of the search market.

I must also add that I had the pleasure of meeting many of the staff that work in the GMC from my experiences in Jeju. Staff are clearly dedicated to the mission of working for an “industry of the future” company, to be innovative and to be the best in their field.

A lot of them sure look young to me too. Services provided to staff include such Silicon Valley perks as cafeteria, laundry service, health club, outdoor patio and bbq, basketball court and resource and relaxation areas. One should drop by the GMC facilities, if not to look at the facility then to have a great cup of coffee at the Illy Cafe. Remember, my favorite cappuccino?!

Tours are available to public groups free of charge, but must have at least 10 people. Advanced reservations are necessary three weeks in advance to accommodate the groups. I highly recommend this tour as you get to see right inside the facility and get a great explanation of one of Korea's innovative companies.

The tour can also be done in English. If you are interested please send your tour request to visitgmc@hanmail.net and provide your name, contact information, the date request and the number attending. I'll see you at the cafe!





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