Green Taxi: Korean Case for IDNs and Generics

I would like to spell out a clear example of a case for both IDN domains and the international language of generic domains.

In Korea this week, I have taken notice to most URL’s listed on print ads (billboards and magazines primarily). IDN’s have yet to proliferate through Korea. I have not yet seen an ad with and IDN.

However, the use of websites on company name signs are extremely popular. If you drive down any street, I would say that 90% of the main signs for companies business have their URL on the bottom of their sign. The URL’s vary widely. There is definitely the semi-typical Asian solution of using random characters and letters that are often easier for a non-ASCII or non-Latin based language speaker to understand, such as www.1234abcd.com (I made that one up). However, Koreans often take into account basic English generic terms as marketing tools to Koreans. Koreans may not be fluent in English, but if that is what they have to work with to appeal to both English speakers and Korean speakers, they might as well combine the two languages as much as possible. They use these similar terms in Japan as well. There are so many marketing campaigns using the words “Fun”, “Happy”, “Hello”, “Star”, etc., that I feel like I could buy the domain HappyFunStar.com and market it in Asia to great success. For instance, Kookmin Bank (one of the top three largest banks in Korea), uses KBStar.com for their retail banking branches.

Another example of using friendly, easily-spelled English phrases comes from a larger Korean company. Hyundai Securities, part of the Hyundai chaebol, uses the domain www.StockMarket.co.kr on all of their advertisements. In reality, that domain just forwards to www.YouFirst.co.kr, which in turn is basically the Hyundai Securities retail trading site. Of course they could own HyundaiSecurities.co.kr, but they have realized that this phrase would be much more difficult for Koreans to spell or associate in English with the correct term (more Koreans would know the term Stock Market than Securities). In fact, they do not even own or use the term and domain HyundaiSecurities.co.kr, but that is another issue and separate fault of the company.

Another observation from Korean domains is that probably 60-70% of them use the .co.kr country TLD. Considering the recent discussion regarding country TLD’s, primarily from SimplyGeo in “What Are GeoDomains?“, I think it is worth a bit of color from what I am seeing in Korea. It seems to me that only the larger, multi-national companies are using .com’s. This is still a large part (roughly 30-40% I would say) of the URL’s on signs, but not the majority. I think if a company is large enough for me to have heard of it, which basically means it is listed on the Korean Stock Exchangeand thus probably does some sort of business internationally, it has acquired a .com domain. I think they do this to appeal to the foreign market. That said, I do not think they are hurting themselves locally with a .com. Most of these companies primary market is Korea and they rely on the domestic retail consumer for their business to thrive. There is no way they would risk that customer by using a poorly viewed URL. So, I think that a .com does not detract from the local view, it only enhances the international image of the company. However, I’m not sure the mentality of the smaller companies that use the .co.kr TLD. They either are truly trying to cater to domestics or simply prefer the availability under that TLD as opposed to .com. I am guessing the latter, but I do not have enough feedback to know for sure.

The point, however, is that English generic variations continue to dominate the foreign domain space. Of course, IDN’s are the ultimate solution, but I am sure that none of these companies know of such a thing. Koreans are an extremely high-tech people and I am sure they would pick up the concept of IDN’s quite quickly if it were pushed on them. They really just need a large company to make a run with it and the growth will come from there. Unfortunately, with the large companies already having gone for a .com, it may not be that easy. So, in reality, we need a medium sized company that has not entrenched itself in a .com, but may be at the peak of the .co.kr market to undertake such an endeavor.

It seems to me that a company like Hyundai Securities would be a prime candidate for an IDN domain.

Leave a Reply