I lived in South Korea for nearly a year spanning 2006-7. While there, I was often mystified by how Koreans could be simultaneously so technologically advanced and old school. Well, this new development from the land of kimchi takes the fish cake!
According to the Associated Press, the country's Communications Commission has mandated that for any youth who are under the age of 18 years old, parents are required to install a monitoring app on their phone, presumably with the goal of helping to keep them safe online.
How committed are the Koreans to this monitoring regime? The government has even invested in the development of its own branded monitoring app called Smart Sheriff! Now, the already insanely intense "Tiger Mom" culture in the country can reach into the one space where youth might have respite from prying eyes and micromanagement. It is indeed a sad day for youth in South Korea.
While the US is still bristling from the revelations made by Snowden regarding the extent of spying and monitoring that the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) has been undertaking for years, South Korea seems to have moved in the exact opposite direction and embraced such overreaching actions of the State. But why? They have some of the hardest working learners in the world, and their youth already spend so many in hours in school that I cannot even imagine why parents wouldn't permit at least one area of their children's lives not to be controlled. Hardly seems just!
The implications of this for the education system in South Korea remain to be seen. But one has to wonder if a black market for solutions to thwart apps like Smart Sheriff will surface? Will hagwons now start teaching mobile app development for extra cash for learners eager to escape their overbearing parents? The possibilities are endless! But one thing is for sure: Since the monitoring app requirement can only be enforced on Android-based phones, I suspect we're going to see a strong swing in the favor of Apple in the Korean stock market very shortly. A quote from Jaehyun Cho included in the article best sums up my thoughts: "We don't always use the smartphone for something bad. "Because I could use my phone freely without control, I got interested in developing iPhone games."
Thanks to my colleague Michael Gallagher for sharing this article. As he is based in Seoul, I hope he will keep us apprised of any further developments related to this topic. One of the strangest youth and mobile stories I have come across in a long while.