In August 2003, the South Korean government chose ‘intelligent robots’ as one of the top 10 most promising, next-generation growth industries that were expected to help raise the national per capital income to USD 20,000. Ten years have passed since then and over the past decade, several industries on the top 10 most-promising list, such as displays, semiconductors, and next-generation batteries, have become among the world’s best. However, the intelligent robot industry is still wrestling with a tough task of creating private markets that continue to expand.
As South Korea’s slow-growing robotics market has been led by a small-sized venture firm which was created just four years ago, that firm has been thrown into the spotlight. The market leader is Future Robot, developer of newly launched advertising robot Furo-D. Future Robot has been on a roll in the domestic market, as well as such overseas markets as Japan, China, Brazil, Singapore, and Russia. Against this backdrop, Korea IT Times sat down with Song Se-Kyong, CEO of Future Robot, a company that aspires to be a “future-oriented business,” to learn about this small but strong robot maker.
The Korean government plans to spend 180 billion won ($163 million) over the next five years to support game developers who have been facing a double whammy of intensifying competition in the global market and tough regulations, and negative perceptions at home. The five-year road map for the development of the game industry, unveiled Thursday by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, envisions efforts to bring about a fundamental change to how the public and policymakers perceive online games.
A negative perception of online games is at the center of a vicious circle that has trapped the industry in a skills crunch, a decline in the number of hit products, and slowing growth, the ministry said. “There are many social misconceptions about games, particularly on the side of parents and teachers,” said Yoon Tae-yong, a director at the Culture Ministry, at a news conference.
The ministry plans to roll out what it calls the “game literacy” program in cooperation with related government bodies to help parents and teachers forge a more balanced view of games, he said.
Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) said Thursday it has developed a technology that enables the use of nano element “graphene” for 3D printing for the first time in the world. KERI, a unit under the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, said that the new technology will significantly improve the manufacture of flexible and wearable devices. “The 3D nano printing technology will make it possible to produce 3D objects using various materials, including metal, plastic and graphene, compared to the existing 3D printers that only use plastic as material,” said Seol Seung-kwon, a senior researcher at KERI’s Nano Hybrid Technology Research Center. “This technology can be applied to diverse industrial segments. In particular, it is anticipated to set a new paradigm in the printed electronics segment, which has lacked core technology so far.”
The printed electronics technology is used for manufacturing digital devices such as smartphones, digital cameras and display panels, as well as flexible devices including electronics paper and flexible chemical sensors. Though 3D printing technology has been a feature in the printed electronics segment already, the current technology level remained with producing simple objects and had difficulties in manufacturing sophisticated electronic devices at the nano level.
The total number of patents applied throughout the world last year was 2.57 milion, up 9 percent from the previous year. The countries with the highest number of patent applications were China, the United States, Japan, Korea, and the EU. The World Intellectual Property Organization said on December 16 in its “World Intellectual Property Indicators 2014” that China accounted for 32.1 percent, or 825,136 cases, of all patents applied in the world. It was then followed by the United States with 22.3 percent (571,612), Japan (12.7%, 328,436), Korea (7.9%, 204,589), and the EU (5.7%, 147,987).
The patent organization added that the number of trademarks, industrial designs, and plant varieties increased 6.4 percent, 2.5 percent, and 6.3 percent, respectively from the previous year. The growth of non-patent IP filings rose in countries like China, the United States, and Korea but decreased in Japan and the EU.
As for the number of IP filings for each national patent office, China (26.4%), Australia (12.7%), and Korea (8.3%) saw their numbers soar for the year while other offices in countries like Japan (-4.2%), Italy (-1.1%), Spain (-6.6%), Britain (-1.3%) experienced their IP filing numbers dwindle.
The Park Geun-hye government’s creative economy initiative received its biggest boost thus far on Wednesday with the opening of innovation centers in Gumi and Pohang in North Gyeongsang. That brings the number of innovation centers nationwide to five, designed to assist start-ups and support regional economies.
The Pohang center in particular received a lot of attention for being independently established by Korea’s largest steelmaker, Posco. It is the first innovation center established and run by the private sector. Samsung Group, which established an innovation center in Daegu in September, opened another one in Gumi to help nearby electronics manufacturers and suppliers enhance production efficiency by implementing smart systems in their factories.
Park and Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Choi Kyung-hwan attended the opening ceremonies for both centers on Wednesday. “Regional economies have prospered mainly around industrial complexes for the past 40 years, but those areas nowadays have struggled with deteriorating production facilities and low technological competitiveness,” Park said at the ceremony. “The two new innovation centers will certainly revitalize these places by helping traditional manufacturers roll out new products inspired by technologies like the Internet of Things, big data and 3-D printing.”
Samsung Electronics, the world’s leading memory chip producer, plans to invest 13.5 trillion won ($12 billion) in semiconductor facilities next year, up from the 13 trillion won spent this year. “Samsung doesn’t expect a drastic change in the overall level of spending on chip facilities,” said a source Monday. He said the small increase in chips is because its strategy is all about maintaining market equilibrium and price stabilization.
The global memory chip industry is being controlled by “top-three” players including Samsung, SK hynix and Micron Technologies of the United States. They produce more than 93 percent of global chips, according to research firms. Samsung invested 12.6 trillion on chip plants in 2013, 13.85 trillion won in 2012 and 13.03 trillion won in 2011. Samsung plans to build a new NAND flash type memory chip line in Xian, China, where Samsung already operates its massive facilities.
In the country with the highest smartphone penetration rate in the world, people’s daily routines, involving shopping, banking, or surfing the web, are becoming dependent on the technology at a fast pace, according to a report released Tuesday.
Korean smartphone users were on their device for an average of three hours and 39 minutes per day in September, almost twice as long as two years ago, according to a study conducted over the past five years and released Tuesday by Digieco, KT’s economic and business research institute. The time counted excludes voice calls. Of the three hours and 39 minutes per day, 85 percent was spent on apps while 15 percent was used to browse the Internet.
The comprehensive survey of Koreans’ digital life details usage time, digital content consumption and users’ evolving phone habits such as the growing inclination to keep their smartphone nearby.
North Korea, reportedly, is stepping up efforts to develop scientific technology for economic revival while at the same time working to bring stabilization to the new government led by Kim Jong-un for three years since he took office as first secretary of the ruling Workers’ party.
In particular, the North is reported to show much interest in electronic payment systems appearing in the global market. It is well known that Kim Jong-un in his early 30s, who directly experienced the information and communications revolution, has put a lot of efforts into technology development in the field of information and communications technology.
“North Korea is keenly interested in electronic payment systems such as PayPal,” said Park Chan-mo (79), an honorary president, who teaches students in Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, in an interview with the Maeil Business Newspaper. He elaborated on the changing North Korean society during the three year regime of Kim Jong-un.
The three local mobile carriers are diversifying their business portfolios amid saturation of the domestic mobile telecom market.
SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are likely to strengthen their focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the major new growth engines for the telecom industry. SK Telecom, the nation’s largest mobile carrier, said it is looking to three new businesses ― media, healthcare and business-to-business (B2B) including the IoT ― in the coming years.
KT, the nation’s largest fixed-line operator, plans to continue its five key new businesses ― smart energy, integrated security systems, media, healthcare and intelligent traffic control. Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu pledged to foster the five segments.
LG Uplus, the nation’s smallest telecom firm, said it will expand its effort to take the next step from its existing telecom businesses. In an end of year press conference on Dec. 5, Vice Chairman Lee Sang-chul emphasized that “now is the tipping point to cope with the biggest changes the world’s information and communication technology industry has seen so far.”
South Korea’s Education Ministry on Wednesday launched a civilian committee to reform the country’s trouble-laden college entrance exam, Suneung, following public criticism over its inconsistent difficulty level and reccurring errors. The move was in response to the public outcry after the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) ― in charge of making the exam questions ― acknowledged that two questions in this year’s annual exam were flawed, marking a second straight year an error was found in the exam.
Adding insult to injury, this year’s math and English tests saw a spike in the number of high scorers, intensifying competition among students in the upper bracket. Suneung is now facing doubts from scholars, education experts and even politicians who have called for reform of the 20-year-old system.
Last month, President Park Geun-hye called for an overhaul of the college entrance exam in a way that is “true to its founding purposes.” “Replacing people in charge (of tests) is not enough, we need to fix the defective system,” Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea’s said last week during a meeting with reporters. “I agree with the president, who is basically telling us to examine the reasons we introduced the exam in the first place. We need to diagnose exactly what is wrong with the system and if it is outdated, we could improve, augment or in the worst case scenario, abolish it.”