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(This is a re-post of the blog I posted in the Diplo Community Blog dated June 23, 2008).

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak attended the opening ceremony of the OECD Ministerial Meeting. Security was tight at the event. Also in attendance were OECD Secretary General Mr. Angel Gurria of Mexico and Korea Communications Commission Chief Mr. See Joong CHOI.

As for the formal panel discussion today, I have enumerated some thoughts here:

[1] Ms. Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media, from the European Commission, talked about Net Neutrality. She said that the issue of NN is not a technical question anymore but rather it is political question. She gave an example of the denial-of-service-attack that occurred in Estonia. She also talked about the use of IPv6 by the year of 2010 (there was an IPv6 summit being held in Korea, too), and the .eu domain name.

[2] Mr. Masahi Nakano who is the senior vice minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and industry of Japan, talked about “Green IT” which is a energy-saving initiative in the IT use. Such mechanisms to be considered are to visualize the net impact and to incentively implement energy efficient activities for both suppliers and consumers.

[3] Mr. Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States, talked about having an open and dynamic Internet through investments and innovation.

[4] Mr. Tae Won Chey who is the chairman of SK Group, made interesting viewpoints when he said that the power shift of the internet global economy is to the consumers to make choices easier and quicker. I would like to pinpoint these items from what Mr. Tae Won Chey said:

a) He talked about “digital natives” and consumer rise in Media domain - sort of a media power shift;

b) With regards to direct participation in Politics, this is generally about the direct and simultaneous exchange of information and that the shifting of power is now to the people and how they participate in politics;

c) There is the ability to catch the trend faster in the future. This is so because of the ability to understand and catch this moving trend that will eventually decide who will be the winner in this race.

d) There is a foreseen mobile lead in the next 10 years of the Internet economy;

e) The web in your palm will be the enxt driver for the Internet economy as mobility will add creativity.

f) Everything will be connected with Internet intelligence and new socio-economic values will be created as more devices are enabled;

g) The fast diffusion of mobile communications in developing countries is also presupposed by the lack of necessary infrastructure such as banking and commerce that make users in developing countries rely on mobile;

h) There are efforts to bring the rest of the world into the Internet economy and that there is a need to work together to level the Internet disparity between countries. Such global coordination is needed to establish the innovative environment for technological development and diffusion;

i) The potential of the Internet could fade if we cannot control some of the negative side effects of the Internet;

j) It is important that we all need to create the right conditions for business while fostering consumer confidence at the same time and preparing for the next 10 years;

[5] Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, also talked about the inevitable momentum for information to be free, and that there is always a path for periodic changes happening in the Internet and it is always the consumers who will make these changes. Skype expects to have 300 million users and that 5% of these calls will be made though Skype. Mr. Silverman said something about how communication used to be a hardware application but now it shifted to a software application because of the voices and the mobile connected to the Internet. I read in an English newspaper in Korea that Skype expects to open its market in Korea. Some critics in Korea were skeptical since Korea has always been “made in Korea” advocates (as you will notice the use of SK telecom and LG phones exclusive to a certain subscription). It seems that Skype is offering free skype-to-skype calls in Korea so this is threatening other Korean telecoms in Korea since subscribers are paying for these calls. It would be interesting to know how the Korean subscribers will respond to this initiative by skype.

After the dinner hosted by the Prime Minister of Korea, a candlelight demonstration was held outside by Korean protestors. We all couldn’t directly go out of the COEX North area so instead we were directed to the COEX Intercontinental Hotel entrance. I have seen some protestors near the Seoul City hall previously but they were quietly positioning themselves outside the COEX with placards and candlelight at this time, and chanting something in Korean. I asked a Korean volunteer from the OECD preparation office what the chanting from the protestors meant but as we were led to the other building, it was too faint to understand what they were actually saying in order for it to be translated to English. All I can decipher was that they were berating President Lee somehow.

I think some of you might have heard that this started as a protest from the lifting of the US beef ban of Korea because of the mad cow disease. I have talked to many Koreans here and they think that this protest has been elevated to something political - that such public opinion was not heard and a ban that has been hastily lifted. This whole thing was what was heavily talked during the civil society forum - that the Internet was used as a tool to converge protests, relying on the inherent freedom of expression that we all rationalize when we want our own views heard. Public opinion should be encouraged - no doubt about that. One Korean university student whom I have talked to informally told me that because of the Internet, the protest escalated.

The demonstration reminded me of a few points that was pointed out by Consumers Korea during the Civil Society Forum last June 16, with regards to Neoliberalism and the Internet:

[1] that information technology is seen as a means of control in capitalism and could strengthen capitalistic view;

[2] that the Internet, as an agora where people converge/gather to oppose neo-liberal globalization and which would imply that we gather and access information and then go oppose policies of government;

The “Agora” mentioned here was the Greek open space/place of assembly. I think the relation to the “agora” is how people can directly respond to information they see/read- the same way Greek people assemble in an agora when they want to hear any declarations.

In my honest opinion, if we talk about the Internet generally in reference to this, scientific technology should be something that should be socially constructive. It is all up to us to promote democracy and such demands for human rights in the digital era should encompass realizing our freedom of expression, upholding privacy and sharing of knowledge.

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