South Koreans use Internet Explorer: It's the law

South Koreans use Internet Explorer: It's the law

Summary: A law passed in the late 90's to facilitate ecommerce security requires using an ActiveX control, and therefore IE, to shop on Korean sites. Some users hack around the restriction.


A story in the Washington Post describes how South Korea is a stronghold of Internet Explorer use, ironically because of a law passed in the late 1990s to facilitate ecommerce security.

The government was early on the ecommerce bandwagon, but there were many security concerns. The government dealt with these concerns by passing a law requiring strong online authentication via digital certificates.

A government online system requires users to enter information and receive a digital certificate which South Korean online merchants can use to identify consumers. But the system relies on an ActiveX control, and therefore requires the use of Internet Explorer. The architecture of the system has not changed since it was created. Users can run other browsers, even to access commerce sites in other countries, but to do business with a Korean ecommerce site they must run IE.

As a result, over 76 percent of South Korean users run some version of Internet Explorer, according to StatCounter Global Stats. IE is popular in many neighboring countries, but nowhere near to the degree that it is in South Korea.
Some surrounding countries also have heavy IE usage, but nothing like in South Korea

Even Microsoft has, for some time, been discouraging the use of ActiveX controls. IE continues to support them, but as a legacy technology. So by creating a legal situation that shuts competitors out of the web browser market, at least for local ecommerce, the law likely weakens the overall security of South Korean users.

IE8 is the most common version in use, as it is in China. This is largely explained by Windows XP users, as version 8 is the last version to work on that operating system. But the IE8 numbers for South Korea are much larger than their share of Windows XP use (22.39 percent). Windows Vista use is low, about 1 percent, so the numbers also indicate that many South Koreans are running Windows 7 with the default Internet Explorer 8.

The reasons to change have been clear enough for years, but they are becoming even more pressing: The Modern UI (Metro) version of Internet Explorer in Windows 8 and 8.1 does not support ActiveX controls. Windows 8 (not Windows RT) users can still run the desktop IE, but clearly Microsoft is moving users and developers away from ActiveX.

Topics: Security, E-Commerce, Government Asia, Microsoft, Windows, Korea

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  • Grammar Nazi Alert

    late '90s and not late 90's
    Brought to you by the Committee to Save the Apostrophe from Abuse
  • Forced IE Use or Forced Windows Use?

    What about the fact that IE and that ActiveX only work on Windows!* Good grief what a crazy law.

    * - Yes it used to work on OSX but it's been discontinued for years and even though it supported ActiveX, I doubt a Mac version of the control was built. Even if it was, it's unlikely it and an old version of IE are going to work with modern OSX much less modern web sites that have moved way past IE8, let alone IE5.x which was the last Mac version circa 2003.
  • I wonder if Wine would work

    Regardless, this is a stupid situation that the South Korean National Assembly should have fixed years ago. Korean techies should contact their politicians.
    John L. Ries
    • John L. Ries: "Wine"

      I believe that the last version of Internet Explorer that worked well with Wine was version 6. I ran IE6 under Wine on Debian Etch.

      IE8 would probably be a stretch and, besides, most Koreans probably wouldn't want to deal with the manual download and install of the browser via Wine. Not to mention the updates.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • IE8 runs fine in WINE

        At least on Mac, anyway.
        • Tried IE8 with Wine a month or so ago on one of my GNU/Linux systems, no go

          Also, here's the Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP (32-bit) test results from Wine HQ:

          Just one Silver and a handful of Bronze (which really doesn't cut it). Mostly garbage. Can't imagine that it would be any better for the average S. Korean.

          Over the years, I've found Wine on GNU/Linux to be hit and miss and mostly miss.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Tried it again this P.M. with PlayOnLinux, a front-end to Wine

          Upon selecting either Internet Explorer 7 or 8 for installation, the following information was provided by the PlayOnLinux GUI:

          "Internet Explorer 7 (ditto for 8) is a Microsoft's web browser. You may need it if you want to test a website compatibility. It isn't fully functional (for using it on a daily basis) at the moment."

          And upon selecting Internet Explorer 6 for installation:

          "Internet Explorer [6] is an old web browser. You may need it if you want to test a website compatibility, you should not use it to navigate."

          In other words, it works, but is not recommended for use.

          P.S. Remember that I used IE6 on Debian Etch which hasn't been supported for a couple of years.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Meanwhile, in Denmark ...

    The NemID digital signature is required for one login to public and private services:

    The best part is that NemID requires the use of a java applet, and therefore, the Java web browser plug-in.

    Active-X and Java. Gotta love it!
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Egad!

      I'm sure the NSA already has a full database of the NemID population and its movements
      Larry Seltzer
  • Due to export limitation of 128-bit encryption

    It actually began with US banning export of 128-bit encryption technology in the 90s.
    At the time, ActiveX seemed like a logical choice to overcome the 40-bit encryption limit.
  • What Was The Law Called ?

    The Hackers Charter Act ?
    Alan Smithie