Publication Details

The article was orignally presented at the International Communication Association Conference (division of Communication Law and Policy), 25-30 May 2005, New York. Then, it was published as Lee, Kwang-Suk (2006) From underground cult to public policy for citizens: democratizing an open source artifact at a policy level in South Korea, Info: The journal of policy, regulation, and strategy for telecommunications 8(1), 2006, 4–15. Copyright Emerald 2006. Original journal article available here


Purpose - This study explores the feasible use of free and open source software (FOSS) at a policy level in South Korea, which is reacting against being locked into only one technology company, Microsoft.

Methodology/Approach - Based on participatory democratic theory, this paper suggests that the normative role of the state is as a public mediator in the development of an IT infrastructure encouraging greater freedom of choice and the establishment of an electronic environment — such as the community-based use of software technology — for citizens to use easily and freely.

Findings - South Korean policymakers have explored FOSS as a kind of a political metaphor: At the international level, FOSS offers a rare opportunity to free the country from its technological dependence on transnational software vendors. At the national level, it is an engine for technological innovation and for market competition. However, the market or business paradigm has dominated most discussions of FOSS in Korea. As a result, the economic paradigm of FOSS is vulnerable and could easily surrender to the proprietary logic of the software market.

Originality/Value - This study describes how the Korean government must maximize the societal benefits of FOSS within the public sector in order to reduce reliance on proprietary software and open the developmental path to alternative technologies.



Link to publisher version (DOI)