This explosive response of Firefox 3.0 release, Open sourced web browser all over the world well exceeded the expectation of Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker, who happened to be in Seoul on the occasion of the OECD Ministerial Meeting and Future Web Forum on 20th, June 2008. It was ironic that she was in South Korea, which is one of the countries where Firefox is the least popular.

Only around 50,000 among the 10 million downloads were done in South Korea. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has an unassailable monopoly here under the government’s regulatory umbrella. Firefox’s share is believed to be around 1 percent or less.

All banking, shopping and other financial transactions on the Internet can be done on computers using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only and many citizens do not know about the presence of the other Web browsers at all. The government has paid little effort to stop this monopoly. Its Internet minister reiterated the government’s lukewarm position on this issue on Wednesday.

“The fact that the government is using Microsoft products too much is a task that we should overcome. But I don’t think other countries can give us insight on this matter,” said Choi See-joong, chairman of Korean Communications Commission, during a press conference at the OECD Ministerial Meeting in Seoul.

Many worry that the Microsoft monopoly is making Korean Web sites vulnerable to cyber attacks. Many public and private sites use a Microsoft program called ActiveX, an outdated technology which can be easily exploited by hackers for cyber crimes. Firefox and other Web browsers do not allow ActiveX for security concerns. But Microsoft are keeping mum about its danger in Korea, while enjoying a comfortable monopoly here.

Laurence Moroney, a technical wizard for Microsoft who also participated in the conference, admitted that it is time for Koreans to make change. “I don’t want to say it’s bad. But it is true that ActiveX was created long before modern concerns on Internet security emerged,” said.

Mozilla worries that it is Korean industry that is being hurt by the technological exclusiveness, because they are not accustomed to making Web sites in accordance with the global open standard.

“Korea wants go grow beyond Korea and compete globally. I know there are Korea businesses that want to expand their market shares outside Korea. So it’s not only an internal problem of Korea. It’s an issue for growth beyond Korea,” said Gen Kanai of Mozilla.