[ROSTRUM]Digital divide widest for firms

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[ROSTRUM]Digital divide widest for firms

I recently attended the New Business Forum held in Japan, where I saw Japanese firms actively hunting Korean technology start-ups. Thousands of Japanese businessmen expressed surprise and envy over the Korean technology start-ups' performances and at Korea's Internet infrastructure. I am encouraged by the attention Japan and other countries have showered on our businesses and knowledge products.

Korea has outrun developed countries in some areas, such as semiconductors and shipbuilding. Korea leads many countries in the development and marketing of some products. But, regrettably, Koreans do not recognize the value of this fact.

Since the burst of the dot-com bubble, Koreans have regarded every dot-com as unprofitable. But Korean dot-coms do not deserve such treatment, considering their performance over the short period of two or three years and despite their inexperience.

We went through a period of trial and error. We went down a path no one had taken before. How could we travel a road no one had been on before as smoothly as we run along a highway? We have profit models that foreign countries envy and are cutting through a road to a new world.

Developed countries envy Korea's high-speed Internet network. However, only 15 percent of Korea's 3 million small and medium-sized companies have their own Internet homepage.

In such a situation, dot-coms recklessly initiated business-to-business electronic commerce and business-to -consumer electronic commerce. From this fact, we can find the reason Korean dot-coms' fall.

But dot-coms are not gone. Absolutely not. The number of Internet users is expanding day by day, and the convenience of the Internet is sinking more deeply into life. More than one half of the population use the Internet.

After a company is established, the company naturally installs a telephone for communicating with its customers. But more than 80 percent of companies in Korea do not have their own Web sites. They are ignoring customers or are ignorant of management skills.

On the other hand, some companies have recognized that corporate Web sites contribute much to productivity, quality of customer service and sales, and are eagerly making the best use of the Internet. Companies that cannot communicate with their customers through the new infrastructure will fail as offline companies.

No company can succeed without a telephone. In the future, a company without a Web site will be in the same situation.

This is not the time to criticize the failed dotcoms. We should use the experiences and trial and errors of the dot-coms to raise the competitiveness of offline companies. We should no longer distinguish online firms from offline ones.

It's to our good fortune that Korea has so many hungry dotcoms around. Now it is the time to take advantage of them to make our companies more competitive.

The writer is CEO of Netian, an Internet portal.

by Jhun Ha-jin

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