Korea’s exports of information and communications technology (ICT) products and services reached a record high of $170 billion last year, the government reported Thursday. According to data released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, ICT products accounted for almost 30 percent of the nation’s $573 billion in exports, contributing to a 2014 trade surplus of $86.3 billion.
Semiconductors were the top ICT export category, thanks to DRAM and 3-D NAND flash memory chips. In 2014, memory chips became the nation’s first export product to surpass $60 billion, increasing 9.6 percent year-on-year to reach $62.7 billion. Semiconductor exports surged 33.2 percent last year to a record $34 billion, while shipments of system semiconductors slumped 9.8 percent to $22.5 billion. Exports of display panels slipped 3.2 percent, as demand dropped in China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Chinese producers of cheaper panels also dragged down prices for LCD televisions.
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.
SK Hynix announced yesterday it has started to mass produce an enhanced version of the world’s thinnest NAND flash memory chip. The company developed the 16-nanometer, 64GB multilevel cell NAND flash chip in the first half of the year.
The new version, which is 10 percent thinner, went into production last month, the company said yesterday, adding that production of the initial version of the chip began in June. It is the first company in the world to mass produce the 16-nanometer 64G MLC NAND flash chip. Micron Semiconductor of the United States said it developed the chip in June.
The Korean company, which is the world’s second-largest company in the overall computer memory chip market, also said yesterday it has developed a 128GB MLC chip, the highest capacity so far. The company plans to start producing the chip next year.