President Lee Myung-bak, sixth from left in front row, poses with dignitaries participating in the OECD Ministerial Meeting that opened Tuesday at the COEX Center, southern Seoul. / Korea Times Photo by Sohn Yong-seok.
By Kim Yon-se
Staff Reporter With
President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that although building an Internet-driven world economy was desirable, Internet progress has been a ``double-edged sword,'' with online security dangers a very real threat to the future global economy.
Lee made the remarks in a speech at the opening session of the two-day OECD Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, with global leaders warning that pressing issues such as Internet security and a growing information gap pose a significant threat to the future of the emerging Internet-based economy.
``Spam and other online risks undermine the confidence people have in the Internet and this damages trust in e-commerce. We need to build popular confidence in electronic transactions,'' President Lee told the crowd of global Internet leaders. ``The power of the Internet ― if it is not to be guaranteed by confidence ― could act as a poison pill instead of being medicine,'' the President said. ``The spread of false and inaccurate information (on the Internet) is paralyzing rational reason and confidence,'' he added.
The irony is that he is struggling with public discontent that has spread like wild-fire across the Internet following what was dubbed as his decision to ignore people's concern about the safety of U.S. beef and allow its import.
OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, also warned of the growing threat of security risks. ``Cyber crime has grown into a multi-billion dollar business,'' he said.
Choi See-joong, chairman of Korea Communications Commission, and the chair of the Seoul conference, also warned of the need to address Internet-based dangers. He said, ``Hacking, identity theft and other risks have amounted to global losses of $12.7 billion for the Internet economy.''
Choi also spoke of a creeping ``digital shadow'' and was keen to highlight the statistic that only 20 percent of the world's population are currently Internet users.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a video message warning of the danger of this growing gap between the Internet haves and have-nots. ``The need to address the issue of the 'digital divide' is crucial,'' he said.
Gurria of OECD also said that in a time of global economic slowdown, governments might be tempted to abandon international cooperation in favor of economic self-preservation. "We all tend to retract into our national shells at times like these but we need to do the opposite, so we can take advantage of new opportunities," he said.
He added that the destiny of the Internet was now in the hands of International politicians. He said, ``The stresses on the system are not really technical. It is up to politicians to work together.''
The meeting continues today, and is expected to focus on creating a network of global Internet collaboration, and an International effort to wipe out web-based security threats.
Participating ministers are scheduled to issue a joint statement, dubbed the Seoul Declaration Friday.
In the declaration, they are expected to express their concerns about the use of the Internet and talk about collective guidelines on the direction in which it should be headed, sources at the conference said.