YouTube Korea: Social Responsibility or User Right?

On April 1st, 2009, South Korea’s telecommunication authority deployed an act which obligates the Internet user to publish his/her real name when uploading a video or leaving a comment on large social networking sites as in Korea, increasing rate of crimes and suicide cases have been caused by slanderous messages posted on social websites. YouTube was also specified as one of the websites to which the act should be applied. However, after discussing with Google World Headquarters, Google Korea (who owns YouTube Korea) refused the authority’s request on the grounds that anonymity is essential to guarantee freedom of expression on YouTube, and the company disabled any video uploading and commenting instead. YouTube customers in South Korea can only use these features by changing the current region in their personal settings into country other than South Korea.


(Source: Asiajin/Korea)

It was highly anticipated that users would eventually leave YouTube in favor of local competitors Like Pandora.tv after YouTube’s decision. Surprisingly, it was not the case. According to a survey by Korean Times in June 2009, for the first time since its launch in Korea in 2008, YouTube became the number one video portal in terms of overall usage time with a 42.79% market share. It shows that Google’s move of disabling the uploading and commenting system does not influence people’s use of the YouTube website. People believe that YouTube’s features like quick registration process, the possibility to embed videos on Cyworld (first social network in Korea), as well as the amount and diversity of content made available from its worldwide user base are all reasons they decide to stick to YouTube.

It was commonly known that it is important for global websites such as YouTube to tailor to the specific local market so as to localize its brand image, this involves operating with respect for local morals and ethics. The response by YouTube Korea here seems to strike a balance between its social responsibility and the protection of its users’ right. It is obvious an excellent way of building a strong position in the Korean market and at the same time casts no negative effect on the corporate’s business.

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