There isn’t enough information about Korea available in other languages on the internet. If you know how to speak and read Korean, take advantage of the abundance of information that is available through Korean portal sites; you can truly find most everything.
Naver – http://www.naver.com
Established in 1999, Naver has been the number one portal and search engine since the early 2000s. Their familiar green box has been the focal point of many a marketing campaign and with great success. Their search engine is very detailed and extensive and you’d find almost everything you’re searching for in Korean. Searching in other languages will not bring up as many results as in portal sites of that original language, although English searches do bring up numerous results.
Naver headquarters building is also in their theme color green:
Their JisikIN (지식인, “knowledge IN”) section is also extremely popular, where members ask questions that can be answered by other members and also a panel of experts. Not only do you get serious answers to serious questions, but you also get numerous questions that border on the silly with equally silly answers to match. Reading serious answers to silly questions is the perfect pastime when you need a good laugh.
Naver is also home to the largest online game portal site Hangame. The site covers all types of games: RPG, Action/FPS/Racing, Sports, Puzzle/Arcade, Board/Flash, and card games.
Their kids’ section Junior Naver is aimed to elementary school students and younger. Not only is the site full of interesting games and other fun projects, there are sections to study English and science, and a homework helper. The parents’ section offers information for parents to aid their kids navigating the site and educational advice.
Besides their email service, one of the most notable services that Naver provided was their blog service. As someone who started blogging in the ‘90s, once I started blogging on Naver I found it very difficult to do so elsewhere; their interface is so user-friendly it’s for the ultimately lazy blogger. (It took me so long to get my English blog started because I was spoiled rotten by Naver’s service. I found setting up things on English blog sites very cumbersome and annoying.) I really really wish Naver had an English option for their blog interface or more people learn Korean to benefit from their awesome blog interface.
Naver has borrowed the idea of different logo designs from Google and accordingly updates them by holidays and occasions. I liked the one they had for Children’s Day.
Naver also has a microblogging site Me2day, a vast webtoon section, and the online donation portal site Happy Bean where various non-profit organizations and others in need of financial aid set up accounts to receive donations. The site has an archive of old newspaper articles that you can search by date as well.
Daum – http://www.daum.net
Daum was launched in 1995, the first ever Korean portal site to open. Daum (다음) literally means “next” in Korean, and its aim was to be the next step in Korean technology and lifestyle. Focusing mainly on search, community, and media, Daum has been the leading portal and email provider for quite some time. Most Koreans have at least one email account from Hanmail (한메일).
One of Daum’s outstanding features is their map systems which are quite extensive and detailed. From skyview, roadview, and “regular” simplified maps they are easy to use and navigate. What I particularly like is their traffic information; not only do they have general traffic information regarding congestions and “fastest route” suggestions, they have a real time bus service information category which is very informative. You don’t have to download any additional applications to access this. (Image: a view of Daum headquarters)
Click on a certain bus stop on the map and all the bus lines that pass through that stop show up with the location of the next oncoming bus and the time of their arrival. Very convenient; it saves you time wondering whether you should wait for the bus or take the metro or grab a taxi instead.
Daum is also famous for their “Agora”, the online forum for discussions of all subjects. Many political debates, online petitions, public opinions are highlighted in this forum, and its influence on society is not without punch. Issues that have been raised here frequently find themselves not only on the news, but also on the streets in the form of public protests. So although there is fodder to be ignored (like any other online forum), it is not a place to be taken lightly.
Other notables: Although Daum has its own blog section, they acquired the established blog site Tistory in 2007 and have been steadily encouraging its growth since then. Their contents feed service called Daum View is being used by bloggers and journalists alike, in every format and field possible. Yozm (요즘, “these days”) is their microblogging SNS service, and they also have the largest widget bank with a “widget factory” where you can easily make a custom widget. Their video clip section TVpot is also gaining popularity.
Nate – http://www.nate.com
Nate is probably best known for being home of Cyworld, and the famous mini-hompy. The attraction of the minihompy is that you have an empty “room” to decorate with various items and a “mini-me” from the online present store. People spend hours decorating or presenting the perfect room with the perfect frame layout of their minihompys.
Once the most popular SNS site in Korea, its popularity has diminished recently due to the invasion of Twitter and Facebook. However, loyal members are still updating their hompys regularly and keeping up with their “neighbors” (이웃), including a lot of Korean stars. (Image : minihompy of Kim Hee Chul from K-pop boyband Super Junior)
Nate is also the site that launched NateOn, the instant messenger service that was stiff competition for MSN messenger. Being part of the conglomerate telecommunications company SK Communications, the service was easily linked with mobile services even in the days without the smartphone.
Nate has also recently jumped on SNS microblogging craze and has launched the beta version of ⓒlog (ⓒ로그). They already have many celebrities on their roster. Whether they’ll be able to catch up to the other microblogging sites, we’ll have to see.
In the land of Korean portals, the top international portals are still trying to find stable ground. They show force in their unique features, however, and their multilingual services.
Google Korea – http://www.google.co.kr
Google Korea offers everything the international Google does, only in Korean. Unfortunately, searching in Korean doesn’t offer as many results as the Korean portals do, so I tend to use Google when searching in other languages. Searching for royalty-free images is easier on Google as well, as most image search results from Korean portals aren’t available for use.
Google Korea has recently started a massive marketing campaign to promote their quick mobile search engine by featuring interactive touch screens at major bus stops and metro stations in Seoul. * Photo courtesy of Beta News
Google, of course, is most known for their logo designs. Besides the selection above, my personal favorite relating to Korea was the tribute to video art maestro Nam June Paik.
Yahoo! Korea – http://kr.yahoo.com
Remember when its name was the equivalent of the internet? Another international portal, Yahoo! also maintains the basic format on their Korean version with top headline news and popular search keywords on the front page. Among the notable highlighted categories in the Korean version are: social commerce, dictionary (Korean, English, Japanese, Hanja, and encyclopedia), and cartoon world.
They also have a great kids section although compared to the English version it’s targeted more towards the younger demographic, which is quite blatant in the site design.
While many competitors are trying to jump in the SNS boom by providing microblogging services, Yahoo! Korea is trying to add more depth (and length) by creating a new form of discussion boards called K Post. Still in its beta stage, it’s like a mélange of quick blogging and real time commenting fused into one. Popular issues are highlighted on the section’s main page as hot issues and are open for free debate.
I’ve only mentioned the strongest features from each site. There are many many more categories to explore, so take a look and click away.