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The Peninsula

Display of Governance Capacity Amid Infrastructure Shortcoming

Published November 10, 2021
Author: Korea View
Category: South Korea

What Happened

  • One of South Korea’s major telecommunications providers KT suffered a nationwide outage on October 25, causing widespread disruptions to daily tasks that require internet connectivity such as virtual classes, food delivery orders, and stock trading.
  • A National Assembly hearing five days before the incident questioned telecommunications providers about the quality of the network services.
  • The government still intends to push forward with the buildout of 5G infrastructure.

Implications: The South Korean government closely monitors industries with economic value despite their growing complexity. The lawmakers’ scrutiny of network providers before the outage reflects this governance capacity in the information and communications technology sector. Concerns were also raised during the 2020 National Assembly hearing when policymakers criticized telecommunication firms for their lack of investments in network infrastructure. This vigilance stems from previous outage incidents. In addition to frequent cyber-attacks from North Korea, a fire at a KT building in 2018 led to a major network outage in Seoul. As a consequence, the government continues to push private sector providers of this key utility to improve its network security and ensure uninterrupted service.

Context: Despite network vulnerabilities, the South Korean government still expects network providers to support not only 16 million new 5G subscribers but also 1,800 companies specializing in its services over the next 5 years. The Korean government wants to become a global leader in 5G-enabled services and industries. Similar to the late 1990s when the government took a close hands-on approach in expanding digital infrastructure and ensuring nationwide training in computers, policymakers today hope public leadership will once again give Korea an edge over competitors.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Janet Hong, Yubin Huh, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of Doo Ho Kim

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