Business news roundup
Free lunch in mobile world
Kakao Talk, the country’s leading mobile messenger company, started a test version of the telephony services this week, a mobile voice over Internet protocol (mVoIP) feature named Voice Talk.
After just a few changes in the configuration, people can talk with each other free of charge no matter how long they are on the lines as long as both sides’ smartphones are equipped with the famous Kakao Talk applications.
The new service caused a great stir as soon as it made its debut here, somewhat late as similar offerings became available worldwide last month with the sole exception of Korea.
Obviously, end users are happy with the freebies as the mobile charges have carved out a big proportion of their expenditures during the past few years although debates on its quality are ongoing.
From the perspective of mobile operators, the step is nightmarish as Kakao’s mVoIP is feared to aggravate their already-weak growth potential in the domestic telecom market in consideration of the big user base for Kakao.
Free calls have been on the offer from other mobile messenger service providers in the past. However, the mVoIP of Kakao Talk makes carriers sweat due to Kakao’s popularity.
Kakao Talk users topped the 50 million mark this week with more than three fourths of them residing in Korea so that its customer base is almost twice the 26.5 million of the No. 1 mobile carrier SK Telecom.
Understandably, SK Telecom and runner-up KT complain that the free voice talk will prompt the overall telecom industry to collapse because they would not be able to secure enough liquidity to invest in next-generation networks.
BF comments Mobile operators, enough is enough!
Another black out?
The Seoul administration warned this week that the country will struggle to meet rising energy demand this summer, prompting fears of a recurrence of the blackout last year.
Minister of Knowledge Economy Hong Suk-woo said that the trajectory of electricity supply and demand shows that the energy reserves would fall as low as 1.5 million kilowatts this summer, way below minimum requirements of 5 million kilowatts.
Hong’s ideas to address the woes is to raise the electricity rates before the summer heat wave hits the country under the belief that the measure will lead people to save energy.
In order to massage the ego of entrepreneurs who complain about rising costs due to the high energy bills, Hong came up with a band-aid solution of encouraging them to work on weekends through lowering rates on Saturday.
On Sept. 15 last year, Korea suffered from an unprecedented rolling blackout because of an unseasonable heat wave. The Seoul administration faced a backlash from people.
BF comments: Five-day work week systems will be gone due to energy shortages? Then, Minister Hong and his underlings would have to work on Saturday too.
Korean equivalent of Cassandra
Controversy lingers as to where the world economy is now situated and where it is headed in the future as concerns continue to sprout up due to the aggravating debt crisis in the eurozone.
In this climate, a veteran bureaucrat-turned-CEO claimed this week that things are worse than the Great Depression around 1930.
Korea Development Bank Group Chairman Kang Man-soo contended that while fundamentals were good during the Great Depression, currently economic health has a structural problem of global imbalance.
Hence, he expects the domestic economy to continue to head downward this year due to the crisis originating in Europe and reminded people that he was right in coming up with correct predictions.
``Last year, many analysts said that the stock prices would shoot up to as high as 2,500 but I warned that they would plunge to less than 1,800 due to the European woes and I was right,’’ Kang said.
The benchmark KOSPI stayed above the 2,000 point level last month but the figure plunged to below the 1,800 mark this week as the debt problems have spread from Greece to Spain.
BF comments: Chairman Kang, please remember that Cassandra was eventually forsaken by the gods.