Lee Jaewoong – Uniting Netizens of Korea

Lee Jaewoong was only 27 when he founded Daum Communications Corporation in 1995. Today, at age 33, his company operates the largest portal in the nation - www.daum.net - with a subscriber base of 24 million and daily page view rates of 200 million.

Lee Jaewoong was only 27 when he founded Daum Communications Corporation in 1995. Today, at age 33, his company operates the largest portal in the nation - www.daum.net - with a subscriber base of 24 million and daily page view rates of 200 million.

Daum.net is a multi-faceted Korean site that allows users to communicate via e-mail and unified messaging services (UMS), interact with communities through its interest group forum, Daum Café, as well as conduct online shopping via its e-commerce channel.

Lee intends to strengthen its portal services and content by providing what he calls UCC (User Created Content) and UCS (User Created Services). Users are encouraged to create content on the site directly by sharing their opinions and information with other users. For example, users can write movie reviews and recommend them to other users. As UCC increases, users get more services that others created (UCS). Daum.net also has a popular search engine called 'Fireball', which was selected by its users.

In Nielsen//NetRatings’ March report, Daum.net came in fifth in the world with 2.8 billion log-ins, trailing just behind Internet powerhouses MSN, Yahoo, AOL and Time Warner.

Daum’s business model has not changed much since the company was founded. Revenue still comes largely from online advertising, e-commerce and Web hosting services.

"As future value is important, the business model and the management structure which can influence people rationally are needed. So, rational thinking is the most important thing I stress to my people," Lee told ZDNet Asia.

For fiscal 2000, Daum recorded total revenues of 28.5 billion won (US$22.3 million), reflecting a 268% growth from last year.

Strong revenue growth from its increasing market share in the online advertising market and rapidly expanding e-commerce, coupled with low content and user acquisition costs, makes Lee confident that the company will achieve profitability at the end of the year. Lee also expects revenue to increase to 100 billion won (US$79.1 million) at the end of the year.

Explaining the low operational costs, Lee said that there is no need for separate marketing activities as Daum’s advertising and e-commerce businesses target the same audience. Additional R&D is also not required for Daum’s mail hosting services, as the same solutions for its advertising business are used.

Naturally, it helps that Korea has always been in the forefront of the Internet revolution. Sixty-three percent of Korean households have PCs at home, out of which almost half have Internet access. The nation also leads in usage penetration for online trading, Internet chat, e-commerce conversion rates and even online advertising.

"Rational thinking is the most important thing I stress to my people."

Nielsen//NetRatings revealed that Daum is the leading Korean advertising site, beating other major Korean portals such as Naver.com, Freechal.com, On-Korea.com, Netian as well as international players like Citibank and Yahoo!

Lee has already succeeded in creating a strong brand name and a loyal user base for Daum, but this is merely the beginning. Daum will be the largest Internet media company in Asia, Lee declares, and when that happens, this young CEO will be even more of a formidable force than he already is now. – Ariel Tam, ZDNet Asia