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.

Big Biz gives up on basic research

“Corporate research institutes nowadays are reducing mid- to long-term projects and have started reassigning researchers into business departments,” said a researcher in his 40s who is employed at Samsung. “I wanted to pursue my research career in a more stable environment, so I applied to the ETRI despite the lower annual salary it offers.”

Conglomerates are under increasing pressure to find the next-generation hit product. That leads them away from mid- to long-term research and development (R&D) projects. In such a fast-changing market, companies like Samsung, LG and SK are trimming their long-term R&D departments.

Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), located in Yongin, southern Gyeonggi, was the birthplace of key semiconductor and smartphone technologies. It mainly researches next-generation products that could be profitable years down the line. In September last year, SAIT started downsizing its research workforce of 1,500 researchers with doctorate and master’s degrees by 50 percent. The researchers are being relocated to Samsung’s other research institutes that study the commercialization of almost-completed technologies, including a mobile handset research center and an electronics material research complex.

“SAIT studies technologies that will nurture the ‘seed industries,’ which will be Samsung’s leading business,” an official from Samsung Group said. “This is simply a reshuffle of research workforce, moving them a step closer to the business departments as their key projects have matured to be commercialized soon.”

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

SK to invest over $15b in R&D and staff

SK Group, the country’s third-largest conglomerate, said Monday it would increase its investments to 16.6 trillion won ($15.33 billion) this year, up 10 percent from 15.1 trillion won in 2012, in research and development as well as human resources management. Kim Chang-geun, chairman of SK’s top decision-making body SUPEX Council, also said the firm would also hire about 7,500 new employees, including experienced and high school graduates, in 2013.

The comments were made during his first meeting with reporters as the new chief of the nation’s No.3 conglomerate, who was appointed in December last year. SK is currently undergoing difficulties as its chairman Chey Tae-won is in jail after receiving a four-year sentence for embezzling corporate funds for stock investment.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

SKT to launch world’s first VoLTE service by September this year

South Korea’s leading mobile carrier SK Telecom (SKT) is set to launch the voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service, which offers clearer voice quality, at the same rate as the service using the third-generation (3G) network. SKT announced at a press conference held at its headquarters in Seoul Wednesday that the company will roll out the world’s first VoLTE service, namely HD Voice, as early as the end of September this year.

The VoLTE service is a voice call service that utilizes fourth-generation (4G) LTE networks. LTE service subscribers have used mobile data services through the LTE network, but phone call services have been provided through 3G networks so far.

The VoLTE service boasts sound quality twice as clearer than the 3G services, and the service will deliver subscribers’ voices close to the original sound on the phones. SKT’s video phone calls will also offer superior definition, clearer by 12 times than those offered through 3G networks, and connection time for phone calls will be reduced by over 20 times.

For full article see Maeil Business.

SKT, KT venture into big data health IT business

Yoo Ki-yoon (aged 51) recently received a personalized healthcare plan based on genome analysis, which processes the patient’s medical and family history and offers relevant healthcare information. This comprehensive health IT service suggests which hospital to visit depending on the symptoms, while providing information on the number of surgeries performed at the hospital, the success rate, and even patient review on doctors. Such big data-based health IT services is expected to gain traction and become fully commercialized in the next year or two.

In line with this latest development, South Korea’s top telecom carriers and the Korean government are actively exploring the potential of big data in healthcare and personal health record (PHR) businesses.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) recently formed a consortium with the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Seoul National University, internet portal Daum, healthcare website Korea Medicare, and information analysis service provider Saltlux to develop a big data-based healthcare application. This application will provide an integrated platform for healthcare information by combining the databases of hospitals from the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service (HIRA), drugs and pharmaceutics from the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA), and food additives from the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF).

Full article see: MK Business News

Smartphone users make up 50% of mobile subscriptions

According to data released by the three domestic mobile carriers smartphone users now account for over half of handset subscriptions in Korea.

As one of the world’s most-wired societies, Korea has seen drastic growth in the smartphone market, less than three years after the introduction of Apple’s 3GS iPhone in late 2009.

Samsung Electronics, previously a minor player that couldn’t effectively compete with Apple, is now the top global maker of smartphones and Korea is seeing a new wave of handsets using advanced Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks.

The number of smartphone users as of the end of last week was 26.67 million, 50.85 percent of Korea’s 52.55 million registered mobile phone users, data from the local telecom industry showed.

“This is a milestone since the first iPhone was introduced, here, 30 months ago,” said an official from the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the nation’s top telecom regulator, Monday.

For full article see Korea Times.

Hospitals and telecom firms develop ‘smart’ services

Smartphones and tablet computers have changed the way we live our daily lives, from how we access the news to how we purchase music. Telecommunication conglomerates in Korea are jumping on the latest smart- device gold mine: the medical market.

Leading companies including SK Telecom and KT are joining hands with major hospitals to develop new medical services based on information communication technology (ICT) and network operational know-how.

In January, Seoul National University Hospital established a joint health care company with SK Telecom called Health Connect, which emphasizes “smart mobile health,” connecting all stakeholders of medical services. The joint venture was established with 20 billion won ($17.64 million) in capital.

KT is preparing to launch a health care company next month specializing in the convergence of medical services and ICT with the Yonsei University health system, which runs Severance Hospital.

For full article see Joongang Daily.

A new smart TV or a set-top box?

Daum Communications’ little black box set to spark new battle in digital arena as it promises to undercut rivals. As Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics vie for leadership in terms of smart TV sales, Web portal Daum Communications has chosen to pursue a new niche market by supplying platforms for the latest highly-convergent goggle boxes.

In front of dozens of reporters from Seoul at its newly established Daum Space. 1 building in Jeju Island, the Kosdaq-listed firm unveiled on Friday its new Daum TV, an Android-based operating system for smart TVs.

Despite existing amid a fog of confusing definitions, smart TVs offer Internet connectivity without the need to link up to a separate computer. They also tend to function more like smartphones running on apps rather than regular flat-screens. Regular TVs can be upgraded using a set-top box.

For full article see Jongang Daily.

SK takes a highly technical approach to going global

This year, SK Group aims to increase its exports by utilizing its unique research and development system, dubbed R&BD+E. The R&BD+E system – which stands for resource and business development plus engineering – is supposed to minimize risks in starting new businesses through close scrutiny by engineering experts.

SK Group, which owns Korea’s No. 1 telecommunications company, is more recognized for its domestic service businesses rather than being a manufacturer contributing to the country’s exports. So it was a surprise earlier this month when the third-largest conglomerate said that exports of its seven manufacturing subsidiaries – SK Innovation, SK Energy, SK Global Chemical, SK Lubricants, SKC, SK Chemical, SK Networks – accounted for 70 percent of their total sales in the first two months of the year.

The family-run group has now set an ambitious goal: to become a “genuinely global business” by increasing exports and expanding operations abroad. “We aim to take a third quantum jump this year with our unique R&BD+E system,” the company announced this week.

KCC plans to boost WiBro sector without 4th mobile operator

South Korea’s telecom regulator KCC (Korea Communications Commission) will be moving ahead with its plan to stimulate the WiBro sector based primarily on existing mobile carriers SK Telecom (SKT) and KT.

This is a radical shift, as the KCC had been eager to establish a fourth mobile operator to offer WiBro-based mobile communications services – which it believed would introduce greater competition and stimulate the market. This news is particularly devastating to the KMI (Korea Mobile Internet) consortium, which had failed to secure the operator position after a series of bids.

The KCC will be announcing a new direction in its WiBro revitalization policy this Friday which will map out how to expand WiBro coverage based on existing operators SKT and KT, confirmed industry sources and government officials Monday. The new strategy will center on using WiBro technology as a supplementary network for the rapidly-growing data traffic, rather than using it for a new mobile carrier service.

For full article see Maeil Business.