The Korea Herald


Facebook uses Korea as test bed

Facebook partners with Samsung, LG, Hyundai to increase mobile presence

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Feb. 23, 2014 - 19:53

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Who says Facebook Korea is on the verge of demise?

Those who obviously have no access to the social networking service grapevine.

“Korea is a unique market where over 90 percent of users access Facebook through smartphones,” said Benjamin Joe, head of Facebook Korea, in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Benjamin Joe, head of Facebook Korea (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald) Benjamin Joe, head of Facebook Korea (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

Noting that Facebook Korea has seen a threefold increase in personnel in the last two years, Joe stressed that further expansion will come down the road.

His comments were aimed at dispelling rumors that Facebook Korea is going to shut down on account of low ad revenue.

“Facebook sees Korea as an important country due to its high mobile usage and the presence of global companies like Samsung and Hyundai,” he said. “This makes Korea an important test bed to Facebook (insofar as it is) wishing to be a mobile-first company.”

In recent years, Facebook has heavily invested in global mobile applications. Last week, the firm surprised the markets by purchasing the fast-growing mobile messenger WhatsApp for $19 billion.

On top of the high mobile usage ― Korea’s number of daily mobile users rose 17.7 percent to 7.3 million last December from six months ago when the company first released the data ― the presence of global electronics and automobile companies in Korea makes the nation attractive to the global IT giant.

“Korean handset makers like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are very important partners to Facebook. We are working closely with the companies to make their devices more social,” the country manager said.

“Share” buttons letting smartphone users share links on Facebook is one example, he added.

Facebook has also partnered with the nation’s automobile manufacturer Kia Motors to add a social experience to their vehicles. Kia is now jointly developing the in-car voice recognition system UVO, which provides quick access to a vehicle’s multimedia and infotainment systems.

“Once the system is commercialized, drivers will search for information on Facebook in their vehicles and not through their smartphones,” he said.

Facebook is also offering a marketing platform for Korean companies to reach global users. Not only major brands but also many small and medium companies in Korea are clients of Facebook, which has over 1 million advertisers globally.

“The biggest advantage of Facebook is to enable companies to have targeted marketing based on demographic factors such as age, workplace, school or interests,” Joe said.

“The outlook for Korea’s user base is also great, and we will continue to expand the number of users by implementing more local features and better translation service pages,” he said.

The nation’s number of monthly active users reached 13 million last December, up by 18 percent from last June.

By Shin Ji-hye (