Korea’s PV industry to resume growth

South Korea’s second largest polysilicon producer Hankook Silicon with its annual polysilicon production capacity of 15,000 tons will resume operations as early as February. The manufacturer has stopped the whole operations since December 2012 when the international polysilicon prices dropped to $15 per kg.

Meanwhile, Hanwha Chemical finished construction of a 10,000-ton-capacity polysilicon plant in Yeosu late last year and is scheduled to begin commercial production within the first half of this year. Another polysilicon producer Samsung Fine Chemicals is building 10,000-ton-capacity plant in Ulsan and will likely set foot in the market within this year.

The nation’s photovoltaic (PV) industry has been turning around since late last year after being mired in the prolonged slump for over two years.

Polysilicon prices climbed for six consecutive weeks after the second week of December to $20.71 per kg as of January 15, according to the PV industry market researcher PV Insight. It marks the first time for the prices to hover above $20 in 16 months since September 2012.

The photovoltaic manufactures which use polysilicon products are also boosting their operating ratios. The nation’s ingot and wafer manufacturer Nexolon is running the entire production lines from late last year while cell manufacturer Hanwha Q.CELLS and module manufacturer Hanwha SolarOne also increased their operating ratios up to 90 percent.

For full  article, see Maeil Business.

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Samsung and Google agree on patent peace accord

2014_01_samsung_appleSamsung Electronics has signed a 10-year peace treaty with Google that will prevent the two companies from waging a patent war against one another, a move the Korean tech firm believes will help further isolate arch rival Apple. Samsung said yesterday it signed a patent cross-license agreement that covers “a broad range of technologies and business areas” with Google. The “mutually beneficial agreement” covers not only existing patents but also new patents to be filed by 2023, Samsung said.

“We’re pleased to enter into a cross-license with our partner, Samsung,” said Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google, in a statement.  Samsung said the deal paves “the way for deeper collaboration on the research and development of current and future products and technologies.”

Samsung declined to detail how many of the two companies’ patents will be subject to the cross-license deal, saying that it is confidential. But a significant portion of the patents held by Samsung and Google are believed to be included. Samsung holds about 100,000 patents, while Google owns around 50,000. “We can’t say everything, but it is wide ranging and comprehensive,” said a Samsung Electronics official.

The deal, analysts say, will help the two companies improve on each other’s weak points: software in the case of Samsung and hardware for Google. But Samsung is also expected to benefit from some of the hardware technologies that Google has worked on in recent years, such as robotics and wearable devices.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

LG to supply batteries to Chrysler

LG Chem, a chemical firm and auto parts maker, is said to be on the verge of inking a deal to supply lithium-ion batteries to Chrysler Group, according to market sources Monday. “LG Chem is working on a supply deal with Chrysler, and the outlook is very positive,” an official close to the matter said. He declined to disclose the details, but supply is expected to start as early as this year.

A market source said the batteries made by the LG Group affiliate would likely power a new electric car made by Chrysler, which was recently acquired by Fiat.

LG Chem has been working in tandem with the United States Advanced Battery Consortium, consisting of the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, on developing electric vehicle batteries. The supply deal with Chrysler would be LG’s first such agreement with the U.S. firm.

Samsung SDI has also been participating in the USABC-led battery development project since 2011, and is currently supplying lithium-ion batteries to Chrysler’s F500e. LG Chem is struggling to gain the upper hand in the competition with Samsung SDI and Panasonic, two of its most formidable rivals in the car battery business.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Google Korea searches for answers

2014_01_portalsMost Koreans today use Naver, which has 70 percent of the portal market, or Daum, which has 20 percent. Portal market share is based on the number of searches performed. Although Google and Yahoo are Internet search engines and portal sites that are globally competitive, they have failed to catch on in Korea. Google ranks a distant third, and Yahoo Korea closed up shop in December 2012.

When it began in 1997, Yahoo Korea established itself as a leading domestic portal site, at one time ranking first in visitor numbers. However, its market share declined drastically after 2000, until it was knocked out of the top 10 in September 2012 with a share of less than 1 percent. Korea is one of five countries, along with China, Japan, Russia and the Czech Republic, where Google has failed to dominate the Internet search market, according to a survey released by Democratic Party lawmaker Yoo Seung-hee. Google entered the domestic market in March 2001.

Google operates in 50 countries and has 82 percent of the world’s portal market. Yet it has only managed to gain a share of 3 percent in Korea, according to Nielsen KoreanClick, an Internet research and consulting firm. As of November, Google had 11.4 percent of the domestic mobile portal market compared to Naver’s 70 percent and Daum’s 13.4 percent.

For full article see Joongang Daily.

Government reports use of atteul phones soars

2014_01_thrifty_phoneThe Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said yesterday the number of altteul, or thrifty, phones in use nearly doubled in a year to 2.48 million as of Dec. 31. Thrifty phones now account for 4.55 percent of the mobile phone market. The altteul phone service (MVNO) provides affordable mobile communications services by borrowing radio wave spectrums from conventional mobile networks.

The growth in altteul subscribers was most pronounced in the fourth quarter, when the thrifty smartphones started selling at post offices and at E-Mart.The 12 altteul phone businesses that provide service by borrowing from KT’s network had 1.165 million subscribers, while the nine operators borrowing from SK Telecom attracted 1.036. Seven businesses that borrowed from LG U+ had 280,000.

However, the highest growth rate of 162 percent was seen in SK affiliates, which went from 394,000 subscribers to 11.036 million. This was followed by 77 percent for KT affiliates, from 657,000 to 1.165 million, and 29 percent for LG U+ affiliates, which saw subscribers rise from 215,000 to 280,000. Meanwhile, revenue for altteul phone operators for 2013 shot up 107 percent form 119 billion won ($111.9 million) in 2012 to 247.4 billion won last year. Sales of altteul phone devices were 378.3 billion won in 2013.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Government announces blueprint for engineering

2014_01_RnD_universitiesThe Park Geun-hye administration is embarking on a concrete project to turn engineering colleges into outposts for her “creative economy” initiative. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced yesterday it will launch the “college of engineering innovation committee” today in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, as well as scholars and industry insiders.

Park, the country’s first president with an engineering background, pledged more support for engineers. Many of the country’s best science talents have opted for medical school, raising the concern over the stated engineering. According to the Science Ministry, the committee will steer professors of engineering colleges toward practical projects rather than writing dissertations.

Currently, engineering professors at many Korean colleges are evaluated mainly on the number of papers they publish. The quality of education at the country’s engineering schools also has been criticized. Schools will be encouraged to use more practical curriculums, the ministry said. The ministry said impractical schooling has hindered Korea’s economy compared to investment in research and development (R&D).

According to the Science Ministry, college spending on R&D has increased since 2004. The figure increased almost 1.5 times to 5.28 trillion won ($5 billion) in 2012, compared to 3.8 trillion in 2008. Korea’s total R&D investment recorded 55.5 trillion in 2012, 1.6 times higher than the figure in 2008.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

LG Unveils World’s First Flexible OLED TV at CES 2014

2014_01_flexible_tv
LG’s Flexible OLED TV

LG Electronics (LG) today took the cover off the world’s first Flexible OLED TV at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. With this groundbreaking TV unit, viewers can control the angle of curvature for the ultimate viewing experience that was only available in the realm of science fiction.

“LG’s Flexible OLED TV is a product that has to be seen to be believed because it defies description,” said H. H. (Hyun-hwoi) Ha President and CEO of LG’s Home Entertainment Company. “What curved is to flat, flexible is to curved. LG continues to lead the evolution of televisions into the next generation.”

What separates LG’s Flexible OLED TV from every other TV set in the world is that the curvature of the display can be altered using the TV remote to suit the viewer’s preference. The range of curvature was determined by taking into account key factors that affect the viewing experience such as screen size and viewing distance. Since the viewer can adjust the curvature, they can enjoy the best TV viewing experience, tailored to their tastes, every time.

For full article, see Korea IT Times.

Jeju cranks up EV incentives

“Korea may not be an attractive market for electric cars considering their lukewarm sales. But for Jeju alone it is a whole new different story,” said a Jeju official.  There are some 300,000 vehicles on the roads in Jeju, while the provincial government aims to replace all the cars with electric vehicles by 2030. The 190-kilometer-long road around the island is within the driving range of most electric vehicles on a single charge. And one of the most intriguing factors that have enhanced Jeju’s affinity for EVs is its lavish cash incentives ― the highest-level around the world.

Jeju provides a combined 23 million won ($21,800) in rebates for EV purchase. The amount is almost double those in other countries. The United States and Japan ― the two top-seller markets of electric cars ― offer up to $10,000 and $13,300 (or 1.39 million yen), respectively. In a market dominated by Korean-made models such as Kia Motors’ Ray, GM Spark EV and Renault Samsung’s SM3 Z.E., foreign brands, equipped with more powerful lineups, are expected to secure price competitiveness to become a direct threat to the less sexy, high-priced Korean competitors.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Robot scientist pushes limits of virtual reality

2014_01_mahruEight years ago, You developed the world’s first network-based humanoid called Mahru, whose latest version, unveiled in 2010, can recognize items and tasks such as house cleaning, operating a microwave and performing other household chores. You, 50, has been leading the research to push the boundaries of virtual reality, focusing on technologies that enable people to interact without space or time constraints.

More than 200 researchers from KIST, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, KAIST, GIST, Hanyang University and Sangmyung University are taking part in the nine-year project. “The purpose of our research is to enable people to experience virtual and remote worlds as if they were the real world,” the director of the Center of Human-Centered Interaction for Coexistence told The Korea Herald in a recent interview.

You and his colleagues are now working on a three-dimensional teleconferencing system. Part of the research is to create a “coexistence space” where people can not only see and talk to each other, but also touch and feel, he explained.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Government pours more funds into SME’s R&D

2014_01_money_researchSmall and midsize companies in Korea will be given more funding support by the government for their research and development this year. According to the Small and Medium Business Administration yesterday, the government will spend 818.4 billion won ($779 million) in 2014 in the R&D sector for SMEs, up 1.8 percent, or 14.7 billion, compared to the previous year.

The move is in line with the current administration’s focus on boosting a so-called creative economy and realizing “economic democratization” by nurturing SMEs. Not all SMEs, however, will benefit from the extended funding this year. The SMBA has categorized SMEs into different groups based on their performances and companies in each category are expected to receive different amounts of support after deliberation by the government.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.