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Twitter Launches in South Korea

The popular microblogging service has just launched an array of websites and smartphone apps to win over the Korean market. But they’ve got one problem: The homegrown competition.

Korean Twitter South Korea

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Twitter’s international march keeps on going on and on: The popular microblogging service has just launched
a Korean-language version.

The Korean
version of Twitter
‘s first official day of operation was Wednesday, January, 19. To kick off, Twitter sent out a Korean-language-only
press release
and co-founder Evan Williams gave
a press conference in Seoul. Rather than using a specialized domain
name, web users are expected to access the Hangul-alphabet Twitter
through the primary Twitter.com portal.

In addition, the official Twitter Android and iPhone applications have been updated to ensure full Hangul-alphabet functionality.

Williams emphasized Twitter’s growth rates in Asia during his presentation. According to Kim Hyung-eun of the JoongAng Daily, the
Twitter co-founder told assembled press and techies
that “it’s only the beginning […] The Korean-language tweets have
grown even faster than tweets in general. We’ve seen over 3,400
percent growth of Korean language tweets from January 2010 through
December.”

Twitter’s Korean expansion is also being accompanied by strategic partnerships with local firms. Partnership agreements have already been signed with popular web portal Daum and mobile carrier LG U+. According to
JoongAng Daily, talks are underway with local
web portals NHN and SK as well as with national telephone monolith
Korea Telecom.

In the press
release sent to the Korean market, Twitter emphasized the celebrities
and prominent businesspeople already using the service. Twitter has
always had a robust presence in South Korea–users were previously
able to enter messages in the Hangul alphabet even though there was
no actual official Korean-language portal.

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Users
in the tech-crazy country have been able to use a wide variety of
Korean-language third party applications to use Twitter in the past
for both computers and smartphones. In addition, multilingual Twitter applications such as TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop also
have healthy followings
in South Korea.

However,
Twitter faces a problem in their expansion into the Korean
market—South Korea already has rabidly popular social networking
sites of its own. Cyworld, the country’s most popular social
networking service (which also crashed
and burned
when it attempted to enter the American, Japanese, Taiwanese and European
markets), has nearly 25 million users in a country with a population of approximately 49 million. By comparison, Facebook only has 2.3 million Korean users.

Twitter has also played a tangential role in the South Korea-North Korea conflict. In August 2010, the North Korean government opened an
official Twitter account–@uriminzok
that offers an intermittently updated stream of odes to the North
Korean government, threats to the South and quotes from Kim Il Sung
and Kim Jong Il. South Korea’s government quickly blocked access to the North Korean Twitter feed and claimed that it violated regulations on citizen communication with North Korean citizens.

North
Korea’s Twitter account has not been updated since January 7, when
hackers broke in and posted a series of messages
boasting about nuclear weapons spending and drinking parties in lavish villas, along with a call to overthrow the North Korean
government. Amazingly, the
hacked messages remain on North Korea’s Twitter feed
.
No individuals or governments have yet taken responsibility for the
attack on the North Korean Twitter account.

South
Korea isn’t Twitter’s only international launch in 2011 either –
Fast Company has
previously reported that Twitter
is launching an Arabic site in the coming months
.

Follow the author of this article,
Neal Ungerleider, on
Twitter
.