Koreans Swarm To New Mobile Services, For Music, Payments And Security
10월 11, 2014

Edited from Business Korea: Korea is once again proving to be a market where rapid adoption of new tech services (particularly mobile) can occur at phenomenal speed. Samsung's Milk Music, Kakao Corp's peer to peer payments service, and Berlin-based Telegram messenger are the most recent examples. These services have attracted hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers in the first few weeks after release in Korea, the world's 'most wired nation'.

What is particularly worthy of note in this instance is that it is occurring in tandem with a relaxation in Korean government regulations.

Samsung's music service app Milk was able to attract over 500,000 downloads in only 15 days after launch. The service allows users to listen to digital radio services on their smartphones, in real time. The service was downloaded more than 100,000 times in the 24 hours after it was released for free download on Sept. 24. Incidentaly this was also the same day the Galaxy Note 4 debuted as well.

Mobile payments service KakaoPay also gained high popularity in Korea, after release. Korea has a notoriously difficult online payments situation, marked by a requirement to re-enter credit card information for every purchase. It is suggested that KakaoPay could be one of the first services, over time, to be able to break down these barriers to online payments and subscribers have already surpassed 1.2 million in just the first month after release. Currently around 300,000 kakao users subscribe to this service every day.

German-based messaging app Telegram is threatening KakaoTalk's incredibly dominant position in the Korean market. Until this point no foreign messenger had been able to penetrate the Korean market. However, recent reports from the government threatening arrest for anti-government messeges (even in private messages) has spooked large numbers of Koreans. Many are tired of the governments attempts to supress free speach and around 1.5M smartphone users have already moved to the secure Telegram service. The number of users on the English version of Telegram was around 519,000 at the end of September, but the figure doubled in just one week after the government crack-down. Previously only 500-odd Korean people used the service, but it increased 600 times in one week.

Experts are saying that these services are becoming popular because developers of those services understand what users really want. Telegram, for example, is attracting attention thanks to the fact that messages are encypted and are therefor untraceable by Telegram or government agencies. The service also boasts a “secret chat” setting that automatically destroys text messages after a set period of time. At a time when Park GeunHye's government has been cracking down on anti government sentiment, even in private messages, a service like Telegram provides peace of mind.

KakaoPay is also receiving a warm response from the industry and users, since this service enables users to make payments just by entering a password on a mobile device (rather than entering bank details every time), after registering related passwords in an app on KakaoTalk. The mobile payments service was made possible with relaxed government regulations. Chairman Shin Jae-yoon of the Financial Services Commission announced a policy to simplify regulations over electronic banking on Oct. 6 and it is expecteded that a range of other services will be released by a number of providers in the near future.

In the meantime, Milk is likely to be embroiled in controversy due to opposition from the digital music download industry, in that the music service might shake the notion that digital music is not free.

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