Given Google's plan for world domination it's hard to imagine why it is having such a hard time getting a foothold in Korea. Then I found this article that explains it all:
A prevalent theory in Korean dotcom circles is that Google failed to impress demanding Korean customers with its lousy service. This is at least what Naver and other major local portals want Koreans to believe.It's a Walled Garden approach and it basically means that all information is basically owned by one company. This model works well in a monoculture environment, just like it did during the early North American dial-up days where your Internet provider was also your content provider.
Choi Mi Jung, who leads Naver's "Knowledge Man" service, a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia built by the spontaneous participation of Netizens, scoffs at the sloppy interface and unfriendly way Google's Korean site presents its search results. "It is how meticulously their service was designed that made the difference," she says.
However, the real reason behind Google's difficult path in Korea is that its highly praised search technology was rendered practically useless in the Korean language sphere when major portals decided to block Google search robots from crawling around the content they hold, industry observers universally note.
Following the path of AOL that worked so well during the early days of dial-up connectivity, Korean websites decided to build their own "walled gardens" on the net, where users would create content themselves or copy and paste other content they found elsewhere.But what worked well in the beginning will not scale well when Naver tried to grow:
Experts say Naver will not be successful on the global scene if it refuses to take the approach of sharing data with others.
They warned the dominance of Naver and its operator NHN could become diluted, even on the domestic market where the Web portal has prevailed over the past few years.
"In the 10-year history of the country's Internet business, the title of the leader has changed twice. Naver should not be complacent," said Peter Kim, CEO at UCC site Pandora TV.
"Naver is overly proud and sometimes it appears to be arrogant. That has been a signal that heralds the collapse of the top player. Naver should keep this in mind," he said.
Actually, history here has created an eccentric jinx that any Internet firm claiming the top spot stays there for no longer than three years.