New plant compounds become pest control

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Pictured (left) is the ovarium of a normal mosquito. Pictured (center, right) are abnormally developed ovaria due to changes in the JHAs.

A team of researchers has identified plant compounds that can kill targeted pests, leaving the rest of the plant unharmed. Comprised of Dr. Oh Hyun-woo of the Korea Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) and Professors Sim Sang-wun and Je Yun-ho of Seoul National University, the research team identified plant compounds that can serve as a Juvenile Hormone Antagonists (JHA). They succeeded in isolating such substances from plants and this is expected to lead to the development of insecticides that are safe for both humans and the environment.

The juvenile hormone controls an insects’ metamorphosis, the process of emerging from an egg and shedding its skin on a regular basis. It also controls reproduction in female adults. Controlling the JHAs interrupt hormone activation and prevent insects from going through a normal metamorphosis and reproducing normally. Previously, this type of research was done by observing abnormal developments and deaths in targeted cells and insects. This time, however, the new technology used a “yeast/ two-hybrid” system to transform the mosquito’s junior hormone receptor. This made it easier to see whether or not the JHAs can affect the receptor. Also, using this process allowed the scientists to save both time and money.

For full article, see Korea.net.

North Korea’s smartphone imports from China hit record

North Korea’s smartphone imports from China surged to a record high last year, a sign of a growing number of people there being connected to the net, according to data released Friday. North Korea brought in US$82.8 million worth of smartphones from China in 2014, almost double the amount recorded a year earlier, according to the Seoul-based Korea International Trade Association. It marked the largest volume since 2007, when related data were introduced.

Imports of portable data-processing devices, including laptops, also jumped 16 percent on-year to $23 million in 2014 despite a 3-percent decline in the North’s overall imports from China in the year. Around 10 percent of the communist nation’s 24-million residents reportedly use smartphones, with its 3G network run by Koryolink, a joint venture with an Egyptian company, Orascom Telecom.

Source: Yonhap News.

Heat-powered battery from KAIST wins award

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Provided by Netexplo

A Korean developed battery that can be recharged using body heat has won a Netexplo Award, Unesco’s list of the top 10 digital innovations of the year, the organization said Thursday. A research team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) led by electrical engineering Prof. Cho Byung-jin demonstrated the technology in April.

Netexplo Awards are given annually to tech inventions worldwide that have had a major influence on human lives in areas such as energy, environment and education. About 200 IT experts vote to pick 10 winners.

The battery, which Kaist said can be installed in a wearable device, is the first of its kind that recharges automatically when worn. The battery is made of fiberglass with a thin piece of thermoelectric film and must be attached to the part of the wearable that comes in contact with skin. It can be used in pedometers or smartwatches. After the battery is removed from the heat source, on a simple activity tracker, the Kaist battery will last twice as long as batteries that are currently used. But in a smartwatch, which has a larger display and more functions, the Kaist battery will last up to 30 percent longer once it is not being worn.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

LG Chem to invest $1.5 billion this year

2015_01_LGSouth Korea’s top chemical firm LG Chem aims for resurgence with the aggressive investment plan for this year. According to the chemical company on Tuesday, it is planning to invest a total of 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion) in major businesses such as petrochemical, information and electronic materials and li-ion batteries this year. The amount of investment is an increase of 13.3 percent from last year’s 1.5 trillion won.

By sector, the company would invest 730 billion won in adding production lines, 300 billion won in research and development and 760 billion won in the existing businesses. If investment in fixed assets and separate personnel expenses are included, research & development investment would climb to a total of 610 billion won. The figure is up 20 billion won from last year. Eyes are on the aggressive investment plan by LG Chem especially as most chemical and oil refining companies are considering freezing or scaling back investment this year.

For full article, see Maeil Business.

Naver focuses on mobile shopping

Naver is trying to finally crack the mobile business, which it admits has been its Achilles’ heel. Naver is the largest search engine and portal in the country. However, as people steadily shift away from PCs to access the Internet, Naver has been seeking new businesses in the mobile sector. Naver said Tuesday it is introducing a one-stop mobile shopping platform in the first half of this year that forecasts the needs of users and reflects them in search results. It hopes users will shop and pay for goods using its payment system Naver Pay.

“Everyone knows that Naver is not No. 1 in the mobile business,” said Han Seong-sook, head of Naver’s services departments, at a press conference at Naver Partner Square in Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam, southern Seoul Turesday. “Naver lacks content and sharing functions, which are the most important component in mobile. We have a sense of urgency.”

Social networking services such as Google and Facebook are also competing in the mobile shopping market to compete with Amazon, Alibaba and eBay. Naver said it will use an Shopping Trend Graph algorithm that shows relevant information about shopping in search result and the algorithm can predict the users’ interests. Around 34 percent of keywords in Naver searches are already shopping related.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Korea to develop Gwangju as hub of car ventures

2013_02_Hyundai FCEVHyundai Motor and Kia Motors on Tuesday opened their creative economy innovation center in Gwangju. The Gwangju center is the nation’s sixth creative innovation center, following Samsung Group’s Daegu and North Gyeongsang centers, SK Group’s Daejeon center, Hyosung Group’s North Jeolla center, and Posco’s Pohang center.

They are all part of the Korean government’s creative economy initiative, in which large conglomerates in each industry are matched with regions to help boost sagging local economies by assisting small and midsize companies and start-ups based there with cutting-edge technologies and business networks. Hyundai and Kia were matched with Gwangju because they have been doing business there for decades.

The Gwangju center will mainly focus on enhancing the regional economy in Gwangju and South Jeolla by researching eco-friendly automotive technologies such as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and hybrid cars. Of 17 creative innovation centers planned by the government, the Gwangju center is the largest in size, at about 1,190 square meters.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Global companies fiercely compete for Korea’s disaster safety communications network project

2015_01_emergencyThere is now intense competition between global communications equipment suppliers Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson, and Alcatel-Lucent for the national disaster safety communications network project, which will be the first trial of its kind in the world. The winner of the government project of South Korea, which is an IT powerhouse, will be recognized for its technologies. Moreover, major countries like the U.S., the U.K., and Canada are planning to build a disaster safety communications network using Public Safety-LTE (PS-LTE), which was already adopted by Korea. Therefore, the reason for fierce competition seems to lie in the belief that it could be a test-bed for the suppliers’ capabilities in the PS-LTE market, which is still at early stage, to win the order of the Korean project.

According to sources in the government and communications industry on Jan. 25, the national disaster safety communications network project is estimated to be worth 2 trillion won (US$1.85 billion). However, the size of the project is expected to increase to more than 3 trillion won (US$2.8 billion) if 10 year-maintenance costs are included. So competition between global communications equipment suppliers for the project is heating up.

For full article, see Business Korea.

Korea’s weak on start-ups: survey

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Korea is behind Latvia and Colombia when it comes to entrepreneurship, according to report from a local research institute. The report released Sunday by the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) said that Korea was ranked 32nd out of 120 countries in entrepreneurship last year. The study was an analysis based on the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2015, which was compiled by the international non-profit Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute.

Each of the 120 countries got scores based on 15 sub-indexes that assess both start-ups and how their society embraces them. They include start-ups’ business skills and networking abilities and each society’s cultural openness to accepting failures and risks. In 32nd place, Korea was classified in the third of eight classes, on the same level as Romania and Bulgaria but lower than Latvia and Colombia, when it comes to social understanding and support of entrepreneurship. Korea was ranked 26th out of 79 countries in 2012 and 37th out of 118 in 2013.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Mobile shoppers want fewer and better choices

2015_01_online shoppingKim Jin-young was looking for a birthday present for a friend and thought a pair of gloves would be just right. But when she used the keyword “gloves” in a search on G-Market, a popular e-commerce site in Korea, she was faced with a daunting 227,100 results. Even when the 28-year-old sorted the results by a single brand, hundreds of different gloves from the label were offered. Overwhelmed with the results, Kim was turned off the purchase.

Consumers like Kim are pushing online retailers to jump onto the curated commerce bandwagon. All major online retailers – including G-Market, 11st and Coupang – now either have a separate curated commerce site or designated a section for items that have been selected specially.

In the early days of online shopping, people were excited by the fact that a vast assortment of products could be seen with the click of a mouse, something that would have required hours or days of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. But large online retailers such as G-Market, Auction and 11st went too far by showing hundreds of thousands of products in a single search. Shoppers rebelled against the cognitive overload.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Korea to enhance hi-tech war systems

South Korea’s Defense Ministry on Monday unveiled a new defense vision based on information and communication technologies, and other cutting-edge digital platforms to better counter evolving North Korean threats and other security challenges. During its New Year’s policy briefing to President Park Geun-hye, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said the ministry would push to incorporate into military operations innovative technologies such as ICT, big data solutions and the Internet of Things, under the “Creative Defense” vision.

Capitalizing on the country’s technological savviness, the ministry will step up efforts to develop future weapons systems such as combat equipment using laser beams and electromagnetic waves, and unmanned platforms, he said. “In consideration of the limited defense resources and various security threats, we will push to come up with more creative, innovative ways to manage our military, going beyond the old approach that was mainly about catching up with others rather than moving ahead of them,” Han told reporters after the policy briefing at Cheong Wa Dae.

For full article, see Korea Herald.