Microsoft may again be a victim of its own success. Many companies in South Korea rely on ActiveX, a technology built into Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, that enables users to run arbitrary applications in their browser. However, IE7 (Internet Explorer 7) breaks some of the functionality that companies rely on to run their ActiveX plugins in user’s browsers. Because of this the South Korean government through its various ministries has advised users to be cautious about upgrading.
So why has South Korea taken a shine to the ActiveX technology that many American companies have shied away from because of its proprietary nature? The answer lies in encryption. The US maintains a very strict export policy in regards to certain technology. Back in the nineties, US companies couldn’t export browsers with high encryption. So as US companies adopted SSL to secure online communications, some countries like South Korea adopted their own standards.
South Korea developed a technology known as SEED. According to ZDNet, the SEED encryption technology was implemented as an ActiveX component. The SEED technology was developed by the S. Korean CIA, the Korean Information Security Agency, for use in South Korea only and it is hardly used anywhere else.
So now South Korea sites that handle business like banking and shopping must adapt to the new version of Internet Explorer which is bundled with the new Windows Vista. Vista is scheduled for release in South Korea on January 31st. However the government is warning consumers that upgrading will cause problems and to be cautious about the process until all the problems can be worked out.
According to Chosun, an official from a large S. Korean portal said, “We are working on our online payment system to adapt it to Vista, but we’re not sure if we can finish the task by the end of January.”
A Microsoft official was quoted as saying “We’ve been testing Vista with banks and other service providers since September, but we encountered more delays than we expected.” The Korean government has declined to take any action to stop the release of the software. The government opinion is that they cannot stop a private company to not sell a product.
The South Korean government will keep citizens advised on the progress of sites as they upgrade on The Ministry of Information and Communication homepage: