MySpace Launches in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea - The co-founder of MySpace said he believes the popular online hangout is poised to succeed in South Korea after closely scrutinizing U.S. Internet services that have faced challenges making inroads here.

Chris DeWolfe, in Seoul to oversee Tuesday's launch of MySpace's Korean-language site, said the company has created tools that cater to local cultural habits.

The Los Angeles-based firm is expected to face stiff competition from local social-networking sites such as Cyworld in a market that has typically shunned U.S. online services popular elsewhere in the world.

South Korea, one of the world's most wired and tech savvy nations, is one of the few global markets where Google Inc. is not the dominant search engine. Here, local companies such as NHN Corp.'s Naver Web site and Daum Communications have led the way.

DeWolfe said other companies have failed to sufficiently pay heed to local culture, a mistake he said MySpace is trying to avoid.

"We've done a lot of studies on what went wrong with those companies and why," DeWolfe said in response to a question at a forum at a Seoul university.

"We believe that there's different cultures in every country," he added. "We believe that people use Web sites differently in every country."

With Korea, MySpace now has sites for 29 countries or regions and in 15 languages, including English. MySpace, a unit of News Corp., also plans to launch a site for India later this week. Last week, it expanded its offerings for Latinos based in the United States.

DeWolfe is also touting MySpace as a way for Koreans to connect with Americans and others around the world.

"MySpace will be the one and only platform that provides an opportunity for Korean users to easily meet friends around the globe, surpassing the hindrance of language and culture," he said in a statement earlier.

Some participants at the forum where DeWolfe spoke expressed skepticism about MySpace's prospects.

"I think one major problem facing MySpace is whether and how they can overcome the language barrier," said Lee Da-young, a 20-year-old university student. "I wonder how many Koreans can communicate with those abroad in English."

Kang Ji-hye, a 29-year-old office worker, said that in general South Koreans prefer to stick with the familiar.

The MySpace site will be primarily in Korean, though users can easily switch the interface to another language. Information written on the personal profile pages, however, won't be automatically translated.

Initially, music and video will be the content prominently featured, allowing users to communicate regardless of their native language.

Among the new tools is "Minilog," a way for Korean youths to jot down everyday thoughts and feelings in a few hundred characters, with options to personalize stamps and backgrounds to resemble different types of notebook paper.

The blue color MySpace uses on its site also has been softened to give it a greater sense of intimacy, the company said, while thumbnail images that have appeared elsewhere in varying sizes have been standardized to give Korean users consistency.

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