Korea’s high-tech miracle comes of age

2013_11_LTE-patentsIn 1981, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, then a little-known 4-year-old publicly funded think tank, won a 24 billion won ($22.6 million) government project to develop a telephone transmitting and receiving system called time-division exchange (TDX). Most state initiatives at the time – except those to augment the defense against North Korea – were less than 1 billion won, so the institute researchers in charge of the pricey project had to sign a resolution.

“We will do our best to develop TDX, and if we fail, we will brace for any punishment,” read the document, still kept at the Daejeon-based institute. Partly inspired by ambition to succeed, but possibly driven by fear under the military regime of President Chun Doo Hwan, the efforts bore fruit, making Korea the 10th country to develop the system.

“Few believed a nation that lacked experience with large R&D projects could succeed in developing a technology possessed by only a handful of advanced countries,” says Chong Kil-ho, director of ETRI, speaking of the system that allowed calls to be made simultaneously. “We got a lot of confidence from it.”

Building on that confidence, the institute went on to develop several other state-of-the-art technologies, including code division multiple access, which later became a standard of global wireless telecommunication. The institute was the first in the world to develop it and received 350 billion won in royalties from Qualcomm over several years.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

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