[Diplomatic circuit] Early adopters, use of English contributed to birth of South Korean IT giants: French digital minister

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Nov 11, 2019 - 15:00
  • Updated : Nov 11, 2019 - 15:00

French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Cedric O said Korean IT giants were created on the back of early adopters and Koreans’ familiarity with English.

“South Korea and France have a similar number of unicorns totaling about seven to eight. South Korean IT companies are championing in the field compared to French companies because … the Korean market has a lot of early adopters,” O said.

The French minister recalled seeing Koreans watching television on their cellphones in the early 2000s, a habit that the French picked up 10 years later. 

France’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Cedric O (left) and French Ambassador to Seoul Philippe Lefort hold a press conference at the French Embassy in central Seoul on Nov. 5. (Yonhap)

“Secondly, there is a language barrier (in France). France does not tend to prioritize English. When it comes to exports, France faces a language barrier, which deters from quickly expanding overseas,” he added.

He made the comments at a press conference at the French Embassy in central Seoul on Nov. 5.

According to O, most French IT companies have not focused on tapping into other countries due to the moderate size of the domestic market of some 65 million people, a key factor that has hindered the creation of France-based global IT firms.

Highlighting the importance of taking initiative in the transition to the digital age, O described the current status of digitization as the biggest evolution since the 20th century that will shape the future of the country.

“There is bound to be tension between traditional stakeholders and new entities during times of change. We cannot avoid change. It is either you choose to change voluntarily or be forced to do so,” O said.

Amid the transformation, the government’s role is to come up with measures to support market players and mediate conflict between traditional and new companies.

O is familiar with Korea as he has Korean lineage on his father’s side and has previously visited the country.

Last week’s five-day trip was the first since he took office as digital affairs secretary in April, following his role as an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron.

“I came to Korea hoping for more than cooperation in the digital sector. I will deliver President Macron’s letter. Preparations for President Macron to visit South Korea, hopefully in 2020, is underway to reciprocate President Moon Jae-in’s visit to France in July last year,” he said. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (