Reader reactions, The Korean Internet story...

Posted by ckelty on October 1, 2008

I've gotten various great reactions on the book, and I hope to get more...

One of the most interesting so far comes from Seo Sanghyeon, an undergrad at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, who offered this great story of the early development of the Internet in Korea:

After reading Chapter 5, I thought you would be interested in hearing this little tidbit of the Internet history, the history of TCP/IP in Korea. Since (I think) it examplifies your assertion "that the only test of participation in a TCP/IP-based internetwork is the fact that one possesses or has created a device that implements TCP/IP" so well.

Kilnam Chon started to pursue master's degree at UCLA in 1968. You know that ARPANET began as a network connecting UCLA and Stanford in 1969. His research interest was satellite networks, but he did overhear development of internetworking.

And it was the third republic in Korea, and the president (and the dictator) Park Chung-hee wanted Korea to excel in science and technology, so he sent invitations to researchers oversea who were Korean citizens, while promising privileges and supports. Dr. Chon accepted the invitation and returned to Korea. He was given the position of Principal Investigator of Korea Institute of Electronics
Technology, located at Gumi.

His primary responsibility was to develop a computer architecture. He wanted the government to fund the networking research, but since nobody understood what it was good for, there was no funding. His another responsibility was to teach at Seoul National University. So while working for KIET, he started networking research with SNU students.

He started work on implementing System Development Network (Korean analogue of ARPANET) in late 1979. In May 1982, the first telnet session between KIET at Gumi and SNU at Seoul was a success, using 1200bps MODEM. This was a complete TCP/IP internetwork! Notice that Korean internet started by connecting networks in Korea, not by connecting to the outside network. In 1982 Dr. Chon moved to KAIST at Daejeon (my university!) and brought the network with him. So SDN grew to connect three networks in Korea.

Development of SDN was relatively painless. Dr. Chon (of course) had all relevant RFC documents in print, and he used Sun SPARC workstations. However, it is not entirely true that "implementations of TCP/IP were widely available". The end node implementations were, but routers were not. Dr. Chon tried to get an access to the router, then called NODE, or IMP, Interface Message Processor, eveloped by BBN, but he couldn't. One of the claimed reason was that South Korea was too close to communist countries, especially North Korea. Remember it was a Cold War back then. Remember also that there was no networking funding at the beginning. So a hardware implementation of router was out of question. He and his students wrote a software implementation of TCP/IP routing from scratch, solely based on the standard documents. That's why it took more than 2 years to get SDN up and running.

In 1983 SDN connected to HP research by telephone network, and it worked first time -- despite one side was running hardware router and the other side software router. Therefore Korea proved its worth to join global TCP/IP internetwork simply by implementing it by itself. Soon, network usage in KAIST exploded, and by 1988 (Seoul Olympics) about half of network resource was used by KAIST researchers and students to exchange research information with American universities. One reason of KAIST's early success is attributed to this network access. However, at one time, yearly telephone bill of KAIST reached 200,000 dollars, and this was difficult to justify to people who did not understand the value of the network. KAIST arranged a deal with KT (Korea Telecom) so that it gets a cheap telephone line, in exchange transferring network knowledge to KT. And everybody was happy.

In 1986 Korea obtained its first IP range assigned, and in 1987 Korea got .kr TLD. The rest is history.

You may read Dr. Chon's publications and contact him here:

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