Until just a few months ago, Noonsong fell into despair sitting in front of her desk. She had enrolled at a craft academy in order to learn a new hobby, but the craft academy canceled all classes due to the social distancing policy. Noonsong was embarrassed by the unexpected situation, but Noonsong’s friend, who heard Noonsong’s situation, recommended to enroll in Class 101. Finding out that it was still possible to enjoy a hobby online through Class 101, Noonsong immediately registered for a course in the class. Noonsong was then able to earn a craft license after several months of online lectures. She then decided to actively utilize online services.
Another method of connection
The On-tact culture that helped Noonsong to earn a certificate has become very popular since the outbreak of COVID-19. On-tact culture combines 'On' to 'Un-tact', and is a non-face-to-face meeting. It replaces typical in-person activities like online learning. Before COVID-19, Un-tact culture was often a platform for buying and selling goods without face-to-face physical meetings. However, because COVID-19 continues to pop up, social distancing continued, and most people stayed at home. Over time, people got antsy and wanted to leave the home and engage in outside activities. They wanted to connect with the outside world and participate in various activities. The main purpose of Un-tact culture is to minimize face-to-face contact, so it limited the communication between people. In addition, most transactions as they had very little communication made it hard to obtain sufficient information about a product, which made people hesitant to buy. However, On-tact culture exceeds Un-tact culture as it provides opportunities to communicate with people in real time. It is also meaningful that it can deliver information that people want to know in real time, and this raises their interest and trust. In other words, there are clear advantages to On-tact culture; people can easily communicate while maintaining physical distance.
The public enjoying On-tact culture is steadily increasing. A report by Innocean Worldwide, an advertising company, said that On-tact culture will become more universal because it enables people to maintain physical distance but conduct activities successfully. In April, Innocean Worldwide revealed the growth rate of mobile web conferences rose 3,000% from the previous month due to telecommuting. Because of social distancing, usage has increased. More and more companies and schools are conducting remote learning and business. Lee Hoyeon, Department of Christian Studies at Seoul Women's University '20, said, "Thanks to the development of technology, it has enabled modern people to live successfully in the COVID-19 era. I have yet to meet my classmates intimately since the set of the semester, but I have been able to enjoy great conversations with them using video class." As Lee indicates, many people use On-tact culture to cope with the absence of face-to-face situations. Furthermore, more and more people are using On-tact events. The use of live commerce, an online commerce that sells products through real-time video streaming, has increased. According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, a department store that wished to remain anonymously broadcasts once a day on its live commerce channel. It started streaming from December of last year, and it has increased its viewership five times compared to the previous year. That is, the number of people who learn about product information and make online purchases from online communications has increased.
The secret of successful connections
Thanks to the convenience enjoyed by On-tact culture, people are carrying on with their lives and industries related to On-tact culture have developed. The convenience is increased because the online access process is not complicate and On-tact culture is accessible once a simple membership registration or payment is completed. Han Sohyun, Department of Early Childhood Education at Gachon University '20, said, "I used the web conferencing app Cisco Webex because of Un-tact class, and I came to realize how easy it is to use for anyone, because all I needed was my email address." She felt it was not complex to use the web conferencing app. She added, "Recently, I heard about a TV program that sold agricultural products through live streaming. It sold 200 agricultural products in a matter of just a few minutes. People can now communicate in real time and buy or sell products quickly." Han's example highlights the simplicity of On-tact cultures. In addition, because On-tact culture is not restricted by time and space, people can easily use it to communicate with others any time and any place. The video conferencing application 'Zoom' allows the meeting host to share links with participants and start meetings at any time they want. Participants can join the meetings using the shared links anywhere with PC or mobile app. In other words, unlike with face-to-face meetings, time is adjustable and there is no need to be present at a particular place.
The technology that supports On-tact culture is also helping its development. On-tact culture has developed by various technologies, so people can enjoy them. It shows its real worth on On-tact concerts especially. For instance, for the online performance 'BANG BANG CON The Live', which was performed by BTS, after the cheering stick was connected via Bluetooth to view the performance, the color changed in real time like an actual concert hall. Moreover, there were screens that allowed users to enjoy views of the stage from various angles using multi-views. SM and JYP's online paid performance brand 'Beyond LIVE' incorporated Augmented Reality (AR) technology to showcase colorful stage equipment, and through a multi-video connection, each drew attention from viewers both in-country and abroad.1) That is, both concerts offered On-tact performances that satisfied viewers by online concert with high technologies. Besides use in performances, technology is being used for telecommuting. Lim Jeahwan, executive director of Samsung SDS, said, "Whenever employees turn on their laptop or PC at home to work, a secure corporate business system enters their device thanks to a technology called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Also, all systems are cloud-based, so it's easy for employees to connect."2) Nowadays, the available technology is making telecommuting easier, and it has become much safer, ensuring privacy caused by advanced security systems.
Limitations and measures
As On-tact culture has brought many changes to both individuals and society, a need to adapt to these changes has become more and more increased to live well in the On-tact era. However, some people are pessimistic, claiming the On-tact era will bring about the collapse of the offline industry and digital addiction. According to sales from major retailers released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on June 29, sales at offline retailers fell 6.1%, while sales at online retailers rose 13.5%, maintaining a steady upward trend since February when COVID-19 spread in earnest.3) This result suggests that while the On-tact era has had a positive impact on the online industry, it has had a negative impact on the offline industry. Digital addiction, another limitation of On-tact culture, has been shown to be not without a basis in the results of a survey conducted by the Addiction Forum on June 30. According to the survey, 44.3% of the respondents said their smartphone usage time increased during the period of social distancing, but only 4.1% said their smartphone usage time decreased. Also, 48.6% of the 44.3% who said their smartphone usage time increased said they spent the most time on communication content such as chatting and SNS.4) Han Chaewon, Department of Practical Social Welfare '19 at Osan University, said, "I felt lonely as I was in quarantine at home. I came across On-tact culture while looking for ways to communicate with others at home, but enjoying On-tact culture has naturally led to an increase in my smartphone usage time." Interaction with others online has led to increased hours digital device use, which raises the risk of digital addiction. As such, the advent of On-tact culture is both positive but problematic, and solutions seem to be needed to supplement On-tact culture.
All levels of society are making support for On-tact culture to help citizens better enjoy it. On May 10, President Moon Jae-in released a public statement related to the Korean New Deal that details the need and how to overcome the crisis of COVID-19. Moon suggested building more digital infrastructures and nurturing non-face-to-face industries. The government hopes to contribute to the development of On-tact culture, which is largely digital-based, through a digital transformation in all industries. Then, on May 28, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, "Society has begun a shift towards being an On-tact society. The best strategy to help steer this flow of change is a rapid transition to a digital society."5) Chung views the development of digital industries as the key factor in the development of On-tact culture, and in order to accomplish this development, Chung is looking to build up digital support for On-tact culture. Companies taking advantage of On-tact culture in their product sales and video conferencing also showed a move to establish improved On-tact culture. For instance, LG Electronics launched the platform 'LG Learning Madang' to provide On-tact culture education to its service engineers and strengthen online content related to home appliance services. With more companies evolving to meet On-tact culture, 'HanDreamnet', a network security company, launched an industrial security switch that builds a safe environment for On-tact culture. As such, movement in society exists for the development of safe and increased On-tact culture, which will allow people to better enjoy On-tact culture.
Be ready to change
On-tact culture, which speedily evolved as a result of the 2020 pandemic situation, shows no indication of slowing in society. People are actively using it, and this was possible thanks to its convenience and high technology. On-tact culture, which already had a footing in Korean society prior to the pandemic, will continue to be enjoyed long after the world has found a cure for COVID-19. However, for better and safer long-term effects, solutions must be presented that supplement the limitations of On-tact culture. Through these proposals, all people and industries' expectations will be met and the COVID-19 pandemic will be transformed into an opportunity.
1) Kim Hyojung, “SM-JYP, Praise ‘Beyond LIVE’ Together…a Collaborative Online Performance Company”, Yonhap News, August 4, 2020
2) Shin Chanok, “We Will Not Change Even When COVID-19 Ends…Companies That Have Adopted ‘On-tact’”, Maeil Business, July 5, 2020
3) No Seunggil, “Offline Retailers Continue To Suffer…Online Sales Increase in Double Digits”, Etoday, June 29, 2020
4) Nam Yeonhee, “Behavioral Changes Since COVID-19…Digital Addiction and Increased Depression”, Medicaltoday, July 2, 2020
5) Park Joopyeong, “Prime Minister Chung Said, “Heading for On-tact Beyond the Untact…the Best Strategy Is Digital””, news1, May 28, 2020
Choi Song Bojeong / Reporter
Kwon Jung Eunseo / Reporter