중앙데일리

Google renews push in Korean market

May 31,2007
Google unveiled a new interface for its Korean language site yesterday, as it tries to catch Naver.
Google’s chairman and chief executive Eric Schmidt wants to make Google as ubiquitous as brushing your teeth, he said yesterday in Seoul.
But if he wants to do that in Korea it is going to take some doing. To “Google” someone is acommon verb now in the United States, but in Korea one “asks Naver,” the leading local Internet portal itself having become a part of the language.
Schmidt was in town to give a lecture on the second day of the Seoul Digital Forum at the Sheraton Walkerhill hotel.
But he is also here to do business. In a press conference, Schmidt and recently appointed local Google executives unveiled a new user interface for Google’s Korean-language service developed by its local research and development center.
Schmidt emphasized the company’s commitment to Korea. “Korea is an important market for Google because of its tremendous technology and engineering culture,” he said.
Asked why Google has fallen behind local portals, Google officials said that its philosophy is to support users and that the past several years were spent in trying to figure out what Koreans wanted.
“This is just the beginning,” local chief Lee Won-jin said. “We have learned many lessons in the years since we launched the local search service in 2000.”
But local experts have another explanation. “Google’s interface and design were not appealing to Koreans, who do not like text-oriented Web pages, and the search engine was not strong on Korean Web sites,” said one local portal operator who declined to be identified.
Until now, local Google executives admit, Google Korea has been only a “translated Korean version of the English Google” and that they need to improve and localize functions if they are going to catch industry giant Naver.
With foreign portals such as Google failing so far to meet the needs of local users, home grown portals have taken root in the ordinary lives of Koreans. On Naver, the home page opens onto a world of shopping, news, gossip, multimedia and user-created content, making it a complete site for locals. Indeed, for many users Naver is the Internet.
Google’s new Korean interface just begins to touch on a few of these features, by adding buttons to highlight blogs and other services. Local industry analysts are not sure whether Google’s revamped efforts will be enough.
On Tuesday, Schmidt also met with officials of Daum Communications, Korea’s No. 2 search engine, to discuss widening an existing advertising partnership. Lee Seung-jin of Daum was quoted by The Associated Press as saying the two companies are discussing cooperation on search results and user-created video content.
“Google’s alliance with Daum and its sudden change in the strategy of its Korean services, puts the situation up in the air,” one analyst said of Google’s fresh assault on the Korean market.
In his lecture, Schmidt said the society is being transformed for the better by the Internet.
“More people looking at information creates a better outcome,” he said.


By Wohn Dong-hee Staff Writer [wohn@joongang.co.kr]



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