Korea to invest US$ 534 million in genomics research

The Korean government plans to invest 579 billion won ($534 million) in genomics research over the next eight years to create and support related industries in the field. Five ministries will be participating in the project ― the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; Ministry of Health and Welfare; Ministry of Knowledge Economy; Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs; and Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The plan comes as Korea has been lagging behind other advanced economies in the study of genomics, a division of genetics research, while the technological gap between Korea and the U.S., the world’s biggest biotech country, is widening, government officials said. Korea has 57 percent as many patents as the U.S., and its spending on genome project development is a mere 0.9 percent of the total budget for biotechnology.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Cure-all in the making?

A research team at Chungbuk National University carried out experiments with dozens of mice over the past few years to learn what effect stem cells had on lifespan.
A score of them lived their average span of around two years, while another score lived around half a year longer after adult stem cells were periodically injected into them from when they were eight months old.

RNL Bio Chairman Ra Jeong-chan, who commissioned the experiments, said the research testifies to the correlation between stem cells and longevity, which he expects will be eventually applied to human beings. “Mice from the experimental group survived around 30 percent longer than the control group, obviously thanks to the stem cells infused every other week,” Ra said in a recent interview with Business Focus. “The former were also found to be less vulnerable to cancer, one of the major killers of mice, compared to the latter. Some were even still alive after two and a half years.” He added that the research will be featured by a foreign peer-reviewed journal later this year.

The study is in line with previous assumptions of Ra ― adult stem cells not only deal with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or diabetes but also help human being fight aging. In other words, he regards stem cells as the fountain of youth, which humanity has avidly sought to chalk up a victory in its holy war against sickness and aging.

For full article see Korea Times.

Korean publication grows their wings

With ever changing information and technology today’s world, the publication industry is also evolving into electronically based industry, but some of the criticism remain for the fact that Korean publication industry has not been up to date with current global trend. Young-goog Park, Director General of Media Policy Bureau of the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism talked about the five year plan of promotion of publication industry in an interview with Korea IT Times.

Q. To start off, can you please explain the future plan for the next five years of publication industry promotion Agency of Korea.

A. As you know, the society has become more of the knowledge based and with the all the resources we have to gather, promotion of publication industry appears to come to an important position in Korea. However, the information people are gathering is not necessarily from the paper-print based publication, but rather from the digital-content based, and we can see that from reduction of paper-print publication from 102 million print-based publications in 2010 to about 100 million publications printed in 2011. 

But there are also positive aspects of it as well. Although the paper-based publication has been reduced over the course of last couple of years, the electronic publication is growing very fast and we expect for the Korean electronic publication to expand from the revenue of USD208 million in 2011 to almost USD400 million industry in 2015. This is positively affected by the growth and popularity K-Pop in the world. 

With that in mind, our future plan for the 5 years is certainly focusing on the vision of becoming more globalized publishing powerhouse in the world, strengthening the competitiveness of publication contents, establishing advanced distribution environment, revitalizing the overseas expansion, and discovering new growth industry. We also have 23 subsidiary performance tasks that have been already set up in order to accomplish the mentioned 5 main focus.

For full interview, see Korea IT Times.

Agriculture is the Science

 “IT powerhouse Korea has been developing new technology to produce safe food products by grafting its cutting-edge agricultural technology with state-of-the-art IT,” a top official of National Academy of Agricultural Science (NAAS) of Rural Development Administration said. Noting that Korea’s agricultural technology ranks fifth in the world, following the U.S., EU, Japan and Canada, Seung-yong Ra, president of NAAS, said, “In particular, Korea’s technology to produce rice, cabbage, red pepper, and garlic is the best in the world. For instance, the Japanese regard Korean-produced rice as the best in the world.”

In an interview with Korea IT Times, President Ra said, “NAAS established its 15th overseas agricultural technology development center, called Korean Project of International Agriculture (KOPIA), in Thailand early this year to spread Korea’s advanced agricultural technology to developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa.” “For instance, Korean scientists in the King Sejong Station in Antarctic are eating fresh vegetables that they grew in a container-type plant factory, which we call Vertical fame, sent by RDA. Korea boasts of its top-class agricultural technology to grow plants in Antarctic, where the average temperature is minus 55 degrees Celsius,” he explained.

Commenting that Korea’s top-notch agricultural technology is generated from IT, he said, “NAAS is seeking a project combining Korea’s advanced agricultural technology and its top-level IT technology to guarantee the safe supply of foods in a rapidly changing climate environment.”

For full article, see Korea IT Times.

Science-art schools to be built in 2 cities

Incheon and Sejong City will see new types of high schools for gifted students to allow them to receive cross-disciplinary education in science and the arts, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said. The new “Science and Arts School for the Gifted” will be established in the two cities in the next three to four years, according to the ministry. The ministry said it will allow the new schools to educate talented students who both have scientific creativity and artistic sensibilities.

The school will be the first to converge the two fields of study. It will run a separate curriculum from other specialized schools. The curriculum will be called STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The goal of the school is to provide science and technology education as well as arts and liberal arts studies. It will include intensive education in the history of science civilization, engineering and communication. The rest of the curriculum will be similar to other science schools.

For fill article, see Korea Times.

How can Korea boost its software industry?

Korea may be known as an IT powerhouse, but its place in the global software industry remains decidedly modest. Korean software took up less than 2 percent of the global market last year. Even in the domestic market, more than 80 percent of software originates from abroad. In the view of the government, the monopolization of the market by chaebol affiliates, crowding out smaller players, is one of the main reasons for the relatively weak position of the local industry.

“We do not have a very healthy ecosystem in the domestic market,” Kwon Hyouk-woo, senior deputy director of the software division of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, told Voice. “We do need a very healthy and clean ecosystem where both large and small companies could exist together, but I think in Korea we do not have that, because (of) system integration affiliates of large conglomerates, such as Samsung SDS, LG CNS and SK C&C.”

Law revision

To address this, the National Assembly in May amended the Software Industry Promotion Act to disqualify large affiliates from procuring government contracts. The change will come into effect in January. The government also initiated the three-year World Best Software project in 2010, committing 160 billion won ($147 million) to supporting local businesses.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Korean team develops new way of generating stem cells

Korean scientists have discovered a new molecular compound that could increase the efficiency of human adult cell reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells. The low-molecule Reprogramming Stimulating Compound 133, or RSC133, adds to the list of non-viral vectors that are crucial to advancing the biotechnology and production of iPS cells.

Dr. Cho Yee-sook and Dr. Lee Jung-woon of the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology led a team of researchers for this latest discovery that was published in Angewandte Chemie International journal early this month.

It said that the compound derivative acts as the “booster of pluripotency,” and it “potently improves the reprogramming of human somatic cells into a pluripotent state and aids the growth and maintenance of human pluripotent stem cells.” Pluripotent stem cells, like embryonic stem cells, can be turned into any type of cell in the body.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

With gamification, banks build profit by adding fun

A 39-year-old with the surname Yim plays “My Love Dokdo” on his smartphone whenever he has time – not just because the game is addictive, but because it can garner him a better interest rate on his online banking account.

“I started playing it because if I reach level 20 the interest rate on my account will automatically go up 0.5 percentage point,” said Yim, who recently opened a “My Love Dokdo Cyber Fixed Deposit” account with NH Nonghyup.

As smartphones and tablet PCs become ever-more ubiquitous, local financial companies are grafting games to their online banking systems to attract new customers. The trend is dubbed gamification, which refers to the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts.

One of the most successful examples of this has come from Nike. When runners wear the brand’s sneakers equipped with a sensor called Nike Plus, it calculates the number of calories burned, measures the workout time and distance, and sends them the information online.

When they reach their pre-set workout target, the company awards them a trophy online. Users can also upload their records on social networking services and compete with their friends. More than 2 million people worldwide now subscribe to the service.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Korea set to launch space rocket on Nov. 29

Korea plans to launch the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) next week in its third attempt to send a rocket into space from its own soil, a government committee said Thursday. “Nov. 29 has been set as the candidate launch date,” the Naro Launch Preparation Committee said in a released statement. “The possible time of the launch will be between 4 and 6:55 p.m. with the actual time to be decided on the launch date.”

It said, however, that both the date and time were still tentative as bad weather conditions and many other issues could further delay the planned launch.

Seoul originally sought to launch the KSLV-1, also known as Naro-1, on Oct. 26 but a broken rubber seal in a connector or adapter between the rocket and its launch pad forced it to reschedule its third attempt to put a rocket into space. The first two attempts, in August 2009 and June 2010, both ended in failure.

For full article see Korea Times.

Mobile shopping heats up at night

A growing number of so-called “thumb shoppers” Kim attest to the rising trend, and Internet shopping malls like 11st, Shinsegae Mall and Lotte.com are working to win customers and gain an edge in the market. KT’s research institute Digieco expects the size of the mobile shopping market to pass 1 trillion won ($900 million) this year.

Transaction traffic is at its heaviest from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., which accounts for 40 percent of the day’s take, the online retailers say. The most popular items are processed foods – like instant noodles, instant rice and sweets – healthy foods and products related to fashion or beauty, with daily necessities the undisputed favorite, they add. Male shoppers go more for IT and electronic appliances.

Fresh produce is not popular because it is easily perishable and same-day deliveries are not yet possible when shopping by smartphone. Mobile shoppers also make their minds up faster about whether to buy something rather than spending a long time browsing, according to the online stores.

For full article see Joongang Daily.