Information Content Development: Spectacular Growth in the Republic of Korea

Dr. Abhijit Lahiri
Adviser
Department of Scientific & Industrial Research
Technology Bhawan, New Delhi-110016
Email: alh@alpha.nic.in

ABSTRACT

The entire population of the Republic of Korea (47 million) has access to information and communication technologies in some form or the other. There are 157 PCs per one thousand people. By the end of the year 2000, Internet has reached about 42% of the population. Of these, 19 million users are subscribers to high-speed Internet connections. The country has a rich library system comprising two national libraries, 416 university libraries, 560 special libraries, 400 public libraries and 8,060 school libraries. The country has five nation-wide computer networks to serve the areas of administration, banking, education and research, national defence, and health & welfare. So far, 1616 databases have been created (factual _ 932, factual and reference _ 405, reference _ 262), and more than 175 million pages digitized. Care has also been taken for formulating information policy and related regulations. So far more than twenty regulations on library and information services have been passed. The country has elaborate Intellectual Property Rights laws yet database industries and digital contents are not protected. The concerned bill is under consideration of the National Assembly since 1999. For the promotion of database development, Korea Database Promotion Centre has been established to undertake research, standardization, promotion and international relations, besides supporting database and digital content industry and watching copyright protection issues. South Korea has elaborate scheme of incentives for database developers which includes reward, fiscal incentive, exemption from compulsory military training, etc .In a well-planned way users are being trained. So far, three million people including housewives, soldiers, farmers and fishermen have been trained.

KEYWORDS: Computer networks, Content development, Database creation, Digitization, IPR laws, Internet use, Laws and regulations, Library system, Republic of Korea, South Korea, User education.

BACKGROUND

The Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea, is a country with a population of only 47 million. Of these people, more than 80% live in urban areas. Over the years, the South Korean economy has made spectacular progress and its per capita income in 1999 was US$8490. Peculiarly, the country is yet to achieve its full literacy— one percent of the males and four percent of the females remain still illiterate.

Data derived from the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook allows a helpful comparison between South Korea and India.

Table I: India and Republic of Korea (ROK) - A Comparison

Parameter/Indicator Year India ROK

Population (in million)

1999 998 47
Urban Population (%) 1999 28 81
GNP per capita (US$) 1999 450 8490
Adult illiteracy (%) Male 1999 33 01
Adult illiteracy (%) Female 1999 57 04
Newspaper/1000 people 1999 - 393
Radio/1000 people 1997 121 1033
Television/1000 people 1998 69 346
Telephone/1000 people 1998 22 433
Mobile Phone/1000 people 1998 01 302
PC per 1000 people 1998 2.7 156.8

  Source: UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 2001

Going by the statistics (Table 1), it can be seen that almost the entire population of the Republic of Korea has access to information and communication technologies in some form or the other. Every citizen owns a radio and every household on an average has a TV receiver, a mainline telephone and a mobile telephone. However, PCs have not reached all the households _ 157 systems per thousand persons (1998).

Internet Penetration

By the end of the year 2000, Internet has reached about 42% of the population. Of these 19 million users, about 4 million are subscribers to high-speed Internet connections. In household terms, 28.6% of the total 14 million households have such a level of access. And by the end of 2001, the number of these subscribers is expected to grow to 6 million.

The use rate is also significant. As many as 95% users log on to Internet at least once a week. One person on an average uses Internet for about 12 hours a week. Only in the last year, the use rate has grown by about one and a half hours. Interestingly, about 56% of their time is used on information search; of the balance, 21% of time is spent on playing games and 12% on e-mailing.

HIGHLIGHTS OF INFORMATION ACTIVITIES

Information Sources

Though small in terms of the population, the country has a rich library system numbering over 9,438 library/information centres. Apart from the two national libraries, there are 416 university libraries, 560 special libraries, 400 public libraries and 8,060 school libraries. The importance of the segment of special libraries, which are largely affiliated to research and development (R&D) institutions, is growing commensurate with the rapid strides the country has been making in science & technology and industrial development.

The depository libraries, namely, the National Library of Korea (NLK) and the National Assembly Library (NAL) are very rich in their information resources and facilities. For example, the National Library has about 290 thousand materials published before 1945; it also has 10,741 Korean and 4697 foreign periodical titles. The academic libraries (416) have about 40 million volumes. The Academy of Korean Studies, a custodian of Korean cultural heritage, has built up a large collection of 300 thousand volumes including 110 thousand classics. One specific aspect worth mentioning in this context is that the Koreans have given significant attention to collection and management of masters and doctoral dissertations.

Information Networks

The Republic of Korea has five nation-wide computer networks to serve the areas of administration, banking, education and research, national defence, and health & welfare. The objective of the education network is to promote joint use of databases, and also to reduce geographical disparities. A very brief description of the networks are given below.

KREONet — The Korea Research Environment Open Network connects about 300 institutions including 36 government and 32 private research institutes. KOLIS-NET - The Korean Library Information Service Network connects foreign bibliographic resources and 495 domestic libraries. The management responsibilities of KOLIS-NET are distributed. The National Library is in charge of public libraries. KERIS _ the Korea Education and Research Information Service looks after the university libraries. KORDIC _ the Korea Research and Development Information Centre takes care of the special libraries.

A National Digital Library Project evolved as a part of the Information Super Highway Project, started its services via Internet in 1997. The project uses the Z39.50 protocol, supports multimedia applications and network techniques.

Databases

South Korea has made stupendous progress in its database development and digitization process. This trend is evident from the Tables (2 and3) presented below:

Table 2: Types of Databases

Type of Database Nos in 1996 % of Total
Factual 932 57.7
Textual and Reference 405 24.9
Reference 262 16.3
Others 16 1.1
Total 1616 100.0

One would not fail to observe that a very significant extent of its efforts are in the area of factual, factual and reference type of databases. Another point of interest is the digitization of industry/technology information resources.

Table 3: Types of Libraries/Pages Digitized

Institution Pages Digitized (,000)
National Library of Korea 13926
National Assemble Library 17203
Korean Institute of Industry and Technology Information 109000
Government Archives and Records Service 30000
Seoul National University 5500

Table 3 provides an idea of the quantum of efforts that have gone in the content development and also of the governmental agencies that are active in the digitization process.

Other notable developments in the digitization of information materials are that:

The National Library of Korea provides bibliographic services including KOREA-MARC for different types of materials. This service helps achieve standardization of records created within the country. MARC format is also used for article indexing. Dublin core metadata is used for articles and theses.

The National Library helps develop and maintain the software for library management, which in turn ensures standardization at procedural level.

Apart from managing their document heritage, the NLK has started preserving electronic publications on the Internet and on CD-ROMs for the preservation and generation of services. The NLK has so far digitized 14 million pages (6TB) of documents through a contract.

NLK has its own electronic library services to access databases, audio-visual (AV) materials and the Internet. Besides, it provides financial assistance (50% of cost) for establishing electronic library facilities in other libraries.

The Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) has developed a union catalogue-based inter-library loan system covering 154 universities. KERIS also offers services based on LC, OCLC and ACM digital library.

Research Information Service System of KERIS serving 160 thousand users intends to develop a national knowledge management system. The EDUNET, another network, facilitates all citizens to access educational information via Internet, and has a registered user base of 2.5 million.

South Korea produces 40 thousand dissertations including 5,300 doctoral dissertations a year. About 50% of these are collected officially in digital form but in diverse formats (PDF, TIFF, etc).

In South Korea, 1092 academic societies produce 1,347 journals; and 2,234 university and research institutes 1000 journals. A commercial vendor provides full-text services from 200 academic journals.

KERIS provides full-text articles from 82 learned societies, 488 research institutes attached to 57 universities.

The Korean Institute of Industry and Technology Information (KINITI) has produced about 5 million patent records in Korean. KINITI-IR provides information retrieval services also from 7 domestic databases.

The Korea Research and Development Information Centre (KORDIC) has developed/accumulated various types of databases: bibliographic (union catalogue of books and serials, journal articles, proceedings and reports in science and technology), directory (manpower), bibliographic and full-text (public-funded research reports, masters and doctoral dissertations, scientific journals, proceedings and reports), factual (imported research equipment and instruments costing more than US$30,000 and Korean equipment and instruments costing more than 30 million Won, and also factual scientific information)

The SATURN database is being developed by 17 information centres, specialized in science and technology. These centres input data online through the software developed by KORDIC.

KRISTAL-II, a search engine developed by KORDIC and also used by the National Digital Library Project, supports English and Korean document retrieval, mass storage, document ranking facilities, real-time update, interoperation with commercial DBMS, automatic Korean indexing, control of non-structured and variable length documents and interoperability with the Web.

KORDIC maintains a document delivery service using the SATURN database and drawing from the 17 specialized information centres.

KAIST provides access to 3,500 electronic journals under Korean Electronic Site License Initiative of National Digital Science Library Project to more than 200 libraries.

All the documents and records (documents, AV materials, government publications and official government records) collected by the Government Archives and Records Services (GARS) are processed through computers. The digitized images are stored in optical disks, so far 30 million pages have been digitized. Films are stored in DVDs.

Seoul National University provides access to 5.5 million pages of dissertations, old and rare books, etc in image format, apart from OPAC and other information through SOLARNet.

Government institutions systematically collect and disseminate information that is closely related to people's lives. To facilitate the process, the South Korean Government is actively promoting the project of Knowledge Portal for public information resources.

A project on the development of Knowledge Information Connection and Utilization System was founded in 1997, to facilitate utilization of digitized knowledge information resources in education, science and technology, information technology, culture and art and Korean history. As a part of this venture, the Ministry of Information and Communication and the National Computerization Agency are now promoting the National Knowledge Information System project. Public institutions such as the Ministry of Public Health, Office of Patent Administration, Police Agency, Office of the Military Manpower are participating in the activity.

Five database construction divisions viz., research and science and technology, history and culture, and English have been selected to give a boost to the activities on digitization. The objective of the English database is to introduce Korean culture, history, and geography to the rest of the world in English.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Policies and Laws

The business of information being multidisciplinary, several ministries are responsible for information policy and legislation. In South Korea, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is mainly responsible for library development. The importance given to the subject is evident from the fact that there are more than twenty regulations on library and information services like Library Reading and Promotion Act (1994).

Technology

On the technology side, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Information and Communication are responsible for setting up institutions to build information infrastructure, promotion of database industry, copyright, and so on.

The recent initiative is the Cyber Korea 21 which includes

the establishment of information infrastructure for constructing a creative knowledge-based society,

enhancement of overall national productivity utilizing the knowledge information infrastructure, and

creation of new jobs by using the information infrastructure.

The Cyber Korea 21 intends to connect the entire country with basic computing superhighway and sets the goal at one PC every citizen.

Copyright

Though South Korea has elaborate Intellectual Property Rights laws, database industries and digital contents are not yet protected. The concerned bill is under consideration of the National Assembly since 1999. However, a management system would be established in terminals in 2001 to monitor printout of the digitized monographs. A copyright notice will be displayed on terminals to draw the attention of the users. Besides, it is also proposed to obtain copyright holders' permission for digitization and service generation.

Database Promotion

Besides being an early starter (1976 with Chemical Abstracts), South Korea has established a non-profit organization - Korea Database Promotion Centre (KDPC) which undertakes research, standardization, promotion and international relations, besides supporting database and digital content industry and watching copyright protection issues.

Promotion through Incentive Scheme

South Korea has an elaborate scheme of incentives for database developers:

Reward system

Minister of Information and Communication gives awards to database producers every three months.

Prime Minister's award is given every year.

Fiscal incentives

The awardees mentioned above are entitled to many privileges including tax reduction, priority for participation in government projects.

Other incentives

The awardees are exempted from obligatory military service.

User Education

South Korea has an elaborate plan for information user education. So far, three million people including housewives, soldiers, farmers and fishermen have been trained. The next plan has a target of 10 million people. Special efforts are being made to prepare the civil servants for e_governance.

CONCLUSION

The Republic of Korea has made spectacular strides in digital information content development. They have divided the task in the form of projects with definite time elements and investments. The infrastructure to facilitate the activities has been set up. And there is a well-laid incentive system to encourage the indigenous content development industry. The rich information resources should be of extreme utility to the people of Korea. Unfortunately, people not knowing the Korean language cannot make use of these vast resources with ease and speed due to the language barrier. Efforts are on to provide for user-friendly, bilingual versions of the information content in Korean and English.

REFERENCES

1. Sukyoungm, Kim. The current status of digital content development in Korea. Paper presented at the Expert Meeting on Digital Content Development for Information Societies with Special Reference to the Asia/Pacific Region, Tokyo, March 26-28, 2001. 10p.

2. Matsumura, Tamiko et al. Digital Content Development in Korea: a Report by the Visiting Research Team of the Study on Strategic Planning for the Promotion of Informatization in Asia and the Pacific. 24p.

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Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2001, p.3-p.6, p.15
http://itt.nissat.tripod.com/itt0103/icdkorea.htm