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[Opinion] Video Conferencing

Posted March. 07, 2005 22:48,   


An emergency warning has been issued in Korea and at Korean legations overseas. Troops of the Zaitoon battalion should also minimize any activities out of their area." These are words from the videoconference held in October of last year between the commanders of the Korean Army`s Zaitoon battalion in Iraq and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What used to be a part of science fiction movies, video conferencing is now here for real. What remarkable progress. According to a market research organization, Winehouse, the ratio of the frequency of conventional face-to-face meetings has subsided worldwide in 2004 to 40 percent, down from 50 percent in 2001, while the percentage for videoconferences increased 20 percent. The most attractive feature of the latter is conservation of time and cost. Winehouse, however, added, "Video conference is the very best thing for a second meeting after making initial contact with handshakes."

That is the very reason why the experts of human psychology are skeptic about the effects of video conferencing. While official meetings are conducted in official and formal language, real, sincere conversations are made on the way out of conference rooms. Also, the value of information gathered from the facial expressions and moods that video cannot deliver should not be overlooked. That is why Professor Nigel Nicholson, an expert organizational behavior scientist of London Business School, said, "It is human instinct to talk face-to-face and group together in one place," and that face-to-face conferences and legacy offices will not disappear even when the work-at-home system becomes popular.

Despite the common belief of technology eliminating distance, geographical importance is, ironically, increasing. In the United States, "Bio-tech Beach" is now as "in" as Silicon Valley once was. It is a scientific and academic cluster centered around San Diego. In Korea, the headquarters of half the 11 corporations that are named among the global 500, including Samsung and Posco, are located in the Gangnam area for increased efficiency. As more and more unnecessary information floods over, the value of insider information or connections, networking, and close-to-heart contact is soaring out of bounds.

Reportedly, only two videoconferences were held after the inauguration of the Participatory Government. Though it is painful to think of the taxpayer money, 8.3 billion won to be exact, that went into building the system back in the former administration under President Kim Dae-jung, it may turn out to be a positive phenomenon in terms of efficiency.

A problem is expected after the completion of construction of the administrative city that is to be built in the Yeongi-Gongju area. The government says that it wants to increase administrative efficiency through active utilization of the video conferencing technology. This idea needs to be reconsidered. People`s warmth and energy outranks technology.

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com