In the collective imagination, South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries. However, an unexpected event has blocked a part of some institutions in the country: the end of Internet Explorer.
Launched in 2015, the web browser was for many years THE number one. But the appearance of Chrome, Opera and Firefox, linked to the inability of Internet Explorer to renew itself, have led Microsoft to put a final end to it.
But the programmed death of Internet Explorer had unexpected consequences, especially in South Korea, and to a lesser degree in Japan. Several institutions and government agencies have seen their services blocked. The reason: the failure to switch to other browsers in time.
Banks and ministries affected
The use of Internet Explorer by most institutions and the failure to switch to other browsers has had unfortunate consequences and caused several weeks of delays.
This is the case, for example, for the Ministry of Culture and Arts, whose artists could no longer apply for grants in the down period. The same goes for the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, where it became impossible to register your children in childcare facilities. Worse still, the largest foreign bank in the country had to suspend all its online payments when the browser went out of service.
For most of the country’s inhabitants the switch to other browsers was something taken for granted. But for these institutions the use of Internet Explorer was necessary in order to make certain administrative requests.
Even dead, Internet Explorer still exists in South Korea
Many of the institutions mentioned above have started to redirect their services to Edge, the other web browser from Microsoft. However, a South Korean company has found a way to keep Internet Explorer alive, to the delight of these institutions.
Naver, one of the largest companies in South Korea, known for its 100% South Korean browser Whale, has decided to revive Internet Explorer by activating a special “I.E” mode on Whale.
In an interview with the New York Times, the Naver team said that this feature was launched in 2016 on Whale and should have disappeared with it. But due to the problems encountered on many government and banking sites, the “Internet Explorer Mode” has had a second life on the South Korean browser.
The monopoly of Internet Explorer in South Korea
To understand the impact of the closure of Internet Explorer in South Korea, it is necessary to understand the South Korean culture in relation to this browser.
South Korea was one of the first countries to use Internet Explorer in its administration for e-commerce or for banking operations in the early 1990s. At the end of the 1990s, the electronic signature that was greatly utilized in the country required the installation of a plug-in that only worked on Internet Explorer.
The necessity of Internet Explorer, coupled with the dominance of Microsoft (which monopolized the computer market), was so strong that between 2004 and 2009 99% of the population used this browser. A very large majority of South Koreans were unable to even name another browser.
It is only in the early 2010s that the dependence on Internet Explorer and Microsoft began to decline. This thanks to the arrival of smartphones that used Google and Apple technologies.
Step by step, several companies and institutions have started to open up to other browsers. However, many others have had difficulty doing so and prefer to keep the existing system even if it means finding themselves in the eye of the storm today, not having been able to anticipate such a downfall.
In 2012, Internet Explorer was overtaken by Chrome as the number one browser among South Koreans. Today, more than 54% of the country’s population uses the Google browser. In the meantime, some major Korean sites are still in the process of transitioning to new browsers, much to the dismay of the population.