Google’s Eric Schmidt visits Korea today

October 29, 2013

By Kim Yoo-chul

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will visit Korea today.

For Schmidt, Korea must be a bittersweet market.

Korean technology giants Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are the Internet giant’s biggest customers that use its Android mobile operating system over the past few years.

On the other hand, it is one of the most unprofitable markets for the company. Google is struggling to generate profits and gain a foothold here due to Naver’s dominance in the search market.

Months earlier, Google Korea CEO Yeom Dong-hoon quit amid a worsening business performance.

This is Schmidt’s fourth visit here.

The former Google CEO will hold a press conference in a museum in northern Seoul, Wednesday, at 9:30 a.m. to announce a plan to expand a partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The move is seen as an attempt to improve relations with the government and expand its presence here.

He will also participate in this year’s “Big Tent 2013” from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. today. On Thursday, he will give a speech at the Seoul National University from 11:00 a.m about the future of local startups and how to effectively manage today’s challenges and opportunities.

The chairman is also expected to meet top management at Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and local automotive industries. Samsung Electronics declined to confirm a meeting with its mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun.

“Working-level discussions are underway but it’s still uncertain whether Schmidt will meet Shin. But every time he visits Korea, he has business meetings with Samsung,” said a source at the firm.

Last year, Schmidt visited the headquarters of Google Korea and held a strategic meeting with top Samsung brass over pending issues attended by Samsung Corporate Office Head Choi Gee-sung and the mobile chief.

“Samsung is a close partner of Google for futuristic devices like Google Glass, and Google is advising Samsung over its patent battle with Apple as the former is the representative of the so-called Android Alliance. For me, it would be no surprise for the Google delegation to visit Samsung to improve their mutual partnership,” said an official at the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning by telephone.

“It’s expected that the team will also meet with us as related industries have expectation over Google’s cruise monitoring system unveiled in 2010,” said an official at Hyundai Motor, adding Hyundai is also “very interested” in learning Google’s advanced technology.

Breakthrough in Korea

During his stay, Schmidt is also likely to appoint a new country manger and discuss business strategy to improve Google’s performance here.

Naver is dominant in the local web-searching market. But latest data showed Google rose to the nation’s second-biggest portal operator with the number of net visitors in September reaching 30 million including users from YouTube.

“Google has overtaken Daum Communications. Some say Naver is still top in total page views, but you should remember that more users are feeling comfortable using Google’s web-search. Google is seeing a rapid rise in the number of visitors, meaning that the search giant has the right answer to eventually beat Naver,” said an official at Daum Communications by telephone.

“Consumers want openness. That’s why Apple iOS is losing its luster. In the future, Naver may be threatened by the rise of open-based programs. Koreans are getting familiar with using Google Android mobile devices. Google is no longer an underdog. That’s another reason that Schmidt is putting his emphasis on smaller local ventures and is going to talk about something new in the Internet industry.”