Phone calls, jobs, offices up for grabs in Korean cyberspace

Seoul, Feb 1 (Asia Pulse) - With a little patience and effort or a bit ofcreativity and ambition, one can get free phone calls, jobs or even a brand newoffice to start a business these days. "Free" marketing is the key to success among Internet servicebusinesses amid heavy competition to grab as many as subscribers as possible tostay afloat in cyberspace.

Seoul, Feb 1 (Asia Pulse) - With a little patience and effort or a bit of creativity and ambition, one can get free phone calls, jobs or even a brand new office to start a business these days.

"Free" marketing is the key to success among Internet service businesses amid heavy competition to grab as many as subscribers as possible to stay afloat in cyberspace.

Giveaways range from PCs to Pokemon dolls in the drive to secure a large number of community members, who are the biggest assets for an Internet company. Internet portal services operator Daum Communications is enjoying total stock value of over 2 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) although its sales were just 6.5 billion won last year because investors believe its future worth based on its number of community members of more than 5.7 million. "The only thing we are concentrating on is to get as many as subscribers as possible to become big. Sales come after that," an industry insider says.

Free e-mail, homepages and instant messaging services are only the beginning. Serome Technology added fire to the competition by offering a free Web-to-phone service last month. The government recently said the Dialpad Internet telephony service does not violate the Telecommunications Business Act.

The government approval of the free Internet telephony service has spurred a boom in Web phone service with many saying they will introduce similar services soon. Technology companies Cosmobridge, Ibridge, Wiznet, X-file and Open-Pop Korea have all completed testing of Web phone solutions and are ready start service next month.

Internet companies are going as far as offering free shares and jobs in order to lure members. JobKorea.co.kr announced last week that it will offer 10 shares to every 100,000 jobseekers that join and hand in resumes. Its clients will be holding one third of stakes in the non-registered company, whose capital stands 300 million won. The company pledged to increase the number of job-offering affiliates to 100,000 by June.

Online start-up consulting firm Saup.com is throwing in new shops and offices in return for new and hot business ideas and plans. Hyundai Construction is its sponsor. Fourteen lucky people can use offices and shops in eight Hyundai buildings across the capital and nearby cities if their ideas or business plans are chosen. The deadline has been extended for another month through Feb. 27. "I have to say some are too far off, but some are very good, especially those from college students," said Park Chan-soon, marketing director with Saup. "We decided to extend the deadline due to many calls for more time to map out more detailed business plans."

Leading fund manager Mirae Assets will offer rent-free offices and management consulting services to those with ambitious venture plans. International Data Corporation, in its forecast for 2000, predicted free services and marketing will spread to banking, travel and shopping mall sites and that more and more software will be available through the Internet.

Industry experts predict free marketing to get more active with many manufacturers realising online marketing as the way to survive. PC makers all went online with free PC marketing last year.

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