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Subject : Unified keypads sought for two Koreas   
Date 2010-10-29 Visit 7289

The ruling Grand National Party is mulling unifying the keypad layouts for cellular phones used by South and North Koreans amid media reports that China is working on the international standardization of the Korean keyboards for mobile devices.

The reports have prompted public angst here with many calling on the government and relevant companies to quickly standardize the vernacular keyboard layouts to prevent the situation where Koreans are forced to use the standard created by China.

To enhance communication among its nationals, China has reportedly been working on standardizing keyboard systems for the languages of the 56 ethnic minorities in its territory, including the Korean-Chinese whose number is estimated at 2-3 million.

“Our companies and government organizations should quickly standardize the way we key in Hangeul (the Korean alphabet). National interest should focus on unifying the keyboards used by the Korean-Chinese, and South and North Koreans,” said GNP secretary-general Rep. Won Hee-ryong during the party’s Supreme Council meeting.

For personal computers, South Korea has used only one keyboard standard, which was adopted as the national standard in 1985. However, for mobile phones, each company has different systems, making handset users undergo difficulty getting used to a new system when changing new phones.

Apparently recognizing brewing anti-Chinese sentiment over this issue, Won said that Korea has not responded properly to the repeated requests by a Chinese academic group that Korea quickly make its standard for high-tech mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet PCs.

“Due to the conflict of interests among domestic enterprises, they have failed to agree on the standard keyboards despite repeated requests that we draw up the standard,” Won said.

“China has been working on the standardization for the languages of other ethnic minorities and they could not wait any more (while the standardization work is being delayed here).”

Won expressed concern over the possible anti-Chinese campaigns, which he said could flare up due to “misunderstandings.”

“China has confirmed that it would cooperate with Korea over the issue. We confirmed its stance once again that it would be impossible to draw up the standard while sidelining South Korea in the process given that some 20 million South Koreans and 2-3 million Korean-Chinese use mobile phones,” Won said.

The ruling party plans to hold a meeting soon with related government organizations, including the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, and the Korea Communications Commission, to discuss the issue. It also plans to hold a series of public hearings with local companies over the standardization work.

The KATS under the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy said that the government will step up efforts to quickly standardize the Korean keyboard systems for mobile devices.

The agency has been carrying out the standardization work since November 2009. In March, it formed a committee with experts and officials from local companies and the government and has reviewed measures to address the issue.

However, such efforts have not made any palpable progress due to the “conflict of interests” among concerned companies. Currently, some 400 patents related to the standardization are registered.

“We are encouraging the industry to voluntarily draw up the standard system. The government is also separately working to draw up its own system. If the industry fails to reach an agreement, we plan to confirm the government plan as a standard,” KATS administrator Huh Kyung told reporters.

“The conflict of interests in the industry is very serious regarding the keyboard system, so problems could occur should the government forcibly push for the standardization. What is best is to let the market draw up the standardization plan autonomously.”

Regarding the recent news reports, Huh said Chinese officials were not aware of the standardization taking place in China.

“We have received the replay from officials representing China at the International Electrotechnical Commission, being held in Seattle this week, which said China has not sought such a standardization work,” Huh said.

“They said they would get back to us after checking if any other organizations in China have carried out such a work. The situation where a Chinese standard for Korean keyboards is adopted as the international one cannot happen and should not happen.”

In Korea, the keyboard system created by Samsung holds a market share of 55 percent while the systems by LG and Pantech hold market shares of 20 percent and 14 percent, respectively.



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