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Koreans ‘nuts’ over Cyworld

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Sept 30,2004
Forty-eight-year-old Han Myung-soo recently gave his teenage daughter acorns as a birthday present. He was surprised at first when his daughter sent him an e-mail saying that she wanted acorns, but understood after his wife explained that they were a form of money in Cyworld. Cyworld is a popular site that provides personal homepage services. As of yesterday, the site surpassed 10 million members, or more than a quarter of the South Korean population. Within just a few years of launching, it has become an important part of mass culture. Cyworld’s main feature is a type of Web log called a “mini hompy,” short for mini homepage. Like other blogs, users can create various Web boards, produce online photo albums, and upload other content. Its specialized content includes a “mini room,” which users can decorate with items from a cyber shop. Arcade games and music can also be bought to be included in one’s hompy. These are bought with acorns, which cost 100 won (9 cents) each. Currently, Cyworld earns about 150 million won a day from acorn sales. Another attraction is that all users who sign up must reveal their residential registration number, thus blocking multiple accounts. Users can search for friends and create virtual “bonds” with other members. This concept became very popular and was later adapted by competitors such as Naver, Freechal, MSN and Daum. Cyworld was first established in September 2001 and was taken over in August last year by SK Communications, after which the number of members more than tripled. The site has become so popular that the act of writing postings or uploading photos onto Cyworld has been dubbed “Cy-ing.” Other new terms such as a “Cyholic,” a person who is addicted to Cyworld, have sprung up as well. One of the negative aspects of Cyworld is that it is not a very private medium. Lee Yoon-hyung, the youngest daughter of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, and President Roh Moo-hyun’s daughter-in-law Bae Jung-min have had to close down their sites because too many people were publicizing their personal material. Others, such as Grand National party head Park Geun-hye, however, have used their sites to communicate with the public. by Yoon Chang-hee, Wohn Dong-hee


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