By Kim Hyelin and Lee Jihae
President Moon Jae-in on June 18 said his proposed "Digital New Deal" will "create a foundation for the digital economy going forward so that Korea can move toward a pace-setting economy in the post-coronavirus era."
He said this in a meeting with staff of Douzone, a company specializing in data and artificial intelligence (AI), at the company's Gangchon campus in Chuncheon, Gangwon-do Province.
Last month, the president proposed the Korean New Deal to combine the Digital New Deal and Green New Deal for overcoming the economic crisis incurred by the pandemic and seeking new solutions. His visit to Douzone was the first visit related to the Korean New Deal and focused on the Digital New Deal.
"The Digital New Deal we are pursuing will create a so-called 'data dam' to maximize the data utilization that will become the foundation of the digital economy going forward," he said, listing AI development, the smartification of industrial complexes, innovation industries and non-contact services.
President Moon also mentioned tasks requiring focus in the process of implementing the Digital New Deal, saying, "It's now necessary for data generated in both the public and private sectors to be boldly opened up so that business can utilize it."
"During the process of opening up data, it needs to be thoroughly turned into de-identified forms so that private information is not fringed upon."
Because the digital economy might eliminate jobs in existing sectors, he said, "We have to simultaneously implement national projects to transfer people who used to work for old industries into newly created jobs."
"I believe that another daunting task facing us is to create a so-called inclusive digital economy by narrowing this gap."
President Moon also asked Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki, who also attended the meeting, to urge the government to speed up innovation in regulation for the sake of a successful digital economy.
The government by next month aims to specify the president's plans and announce a general blueprint for the Korean New Deal.
By Xu Aiying and Lee Jihae
President Moon Jae-in on May 21 pledged to swiftly press ahead with his proposed "Korean New Deal" to minimize the economic impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and secure future competitiveness.
He said this in a meeting he chaired of business leaders from key industries at the Korea International Trade Association in Seoul.
Speaking to CEOs from nine key sectors such as aviation, cars and shipbuilding, the president warned that domestic industry and jobs were all in crisis and urged cooperation between labor and management to save jobs and the economy.
"Through five rounds of Emergency Economic Council meetings, the government made the extraordinary decision to inject KRW 245 trillion – 13% of our country’s GDP – into overcoming this economic crisis, and it is also preparing a third supplementary budget," he said.
"Among other things, the government will quickly implement the Korean version of the New Deal. We'll put all our efforts into recovering the economy, securing future competitiveness, protecting jobs and expanding the employment safety net."
President Moon also forecast the acceleration of digitization and eco-friendliness after the pandemic ends. He also pledged to forge ahead with the Green New Deal, part of the Korean New Deal, to respond to climate change by reducing greenhouse gases and create jobs.
"For its part, the government will strive to nurture future technology professionals while supporting Korean companies' efforts to innovate," he said, asking corporations to make efforts to respond to the post-COVID-19 era.
By Jung Joo-ri and Lee Jihae
Seoul | July 18, 2019
A regulatory sandbox is a mechanism for exempting or suspending regulations to provide goods and services formerly unavailable due to such rules. To foster new industries and technology, the sandbox took effect from January 17 this year for a two-year period. This article explores a few of the resulting changes since this policy was implemented six months ago.
Gangnam Station and vicinity and the main sections of the downtown Seoul road Jongno have one thing in common: high difficulty of grabbing a taxi late at night. Many people in either area are seen gathering by the roadside to hail taxis around midnight.
A game-changing app has emerged to resolve this situation. Banban (Half-Half) Taxi offers rides between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to passengers whose routes overlap by at least 70% and who want to ride together to find a taxi faster and split the bill. The cabbie receives payments from both passengers, so the app benefits everyone.
Current law prohibits a taxi from allowing multiple passengers to share a ride in the same cab. Yet as part of its regulatory sandbox, the Ministry of Science and ICT on July 11 permitted the startup platform Kornatus to launch the app. The service will start this month in the Seoul districts of Gangnam-gu, Seocho-gu, Jongno-gu, Jung-gu, Mapo-gu, Yongsan-gu, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Guro-gu, Seongdong-gu, Gwangjin-gu, Dongjak-gu and Gwanak-gu.
A "mutual kitchen" shared by two or more chefs has also been launched after gaining regulatory approval. While one venue is limited to one business licensee operating in it under current law, the sandbox allows several business licensees to share a space -- the mutual kitchen -- and offer a variety of food and services.
Multiple businesses can now also sell food at the same venue. Seoul Hope Night Cafe, which opened on June 20, runs at the Seoul Underground Rendezvous Service Area until 8 p.m. Afterwards, another business sells snacks and drinks until midnight.
The regulatory sandbox has also led to the emergence of virtual reality (VR) theme parks, which offer simulations that feel extremely real. Kong VR on July 5 opened two branches, one near Gangnam Station in Seoul and the other by Haeundae Beach in Busan. The operation of VR motion simulation used to be difficult due to regulations on electricity and electromagnetic waves but the lifting of the latter has jumpstarted this up-and-coming industry.
A Kong VR source said, "We can now spend less time and money on certifications for VR facilities and content."
Since sandbox regulations took effect six months ago, 81 business establishments have received regulatory approval. A host of industries such as financial technology (fintech), transportation and health care have benefited from the sandbox.
The ministry and other government offices said they will expedite relevant patent processes by formulating standards for certification and technology as well as set up an institutional strategy to more effectively manage businesses.
By Jung Joo-ri and Lee Jihae
President Moon Jae-in on May 22 announced the government's road map for fostering the biohealth industry as a new engine for economic growth.
At a seminar in Osong, Chungcheongbuk-do Province, he said plans are in place to have the domestic sector for pharmaceuticals and medical devices grab 6 percent of the global market, hit USD 50 billion in exports and become one of the country's five biggest export industries by 2030.
The Korean biosimilar industry accounted for two-thirds of the world's market share last year and the country's biopharmaceutical production was second globally, the president said, adding, "Now is the perfect chance for us to lead the global biohealth market."
The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Economy and Finance also announced a joint strategy to innovate the next-generation sector. The plan's focus is the development of non-memory semiconductors, future mobility and bio-health as core industries, and stimulation of the economy through the advancement of the bio-health sector and promotion of public health under the motto "human-centered innovative growth."
The government intends to foster the innovation system for biohealth, mainly in pharmaceuticals, from the early stages of technological development, licensing, production and sale on the market. It will also expand R&D, tax support and deregulation to meet global standards.
By Min Yea-Ji and Kim Young Shin
Korea's risk of sovereign default has fallen to its lowest level since the global financial crisis of 2007-08, the Korea Center for International Finance (KCIF) said on Feb. 1.
The credit default swap (CDS) premium for five-year foreign exchange stabilization bonds saw an average of 32 basis points as of Jan. 31, lower than those of major economies such as the U.K. and France with 36.
The premium is an index measuring the default risk of an issuing entity, with a lower figure meaning reduced risk.
"The steady fall of Korea's CDS premium reflects the positive view of the Korean economy," the KCIF said. "Positive conditions in foreign currency supply such as the current account surplus are behind the falling CDS."
"Political support should be provided to keep up the current account surplus despite external risks such as the global economic slowdown and trade tension."
Despite rising volatility caused by trade tension between the U.S. and China that started last year and insecurity in emerging markets, the center said the Korean won's value and Korean commercial papers have seen stable flow, highlighting their value as lower risk assets. The Korean financial market is also considered stable despite an expected economic slowdown thanks to the country's continued current account surplus and large foreign currency reserves.
A positive factor in the lower default assessment is the anticipation surrounding the second North Korea-U.S. summit set for late February. In September 2017, the insurance premium against South Korea's sovereign debt shot up to 76 basis points amid heightened geopolitical risk due to Pyeongyang's missile launches and military provocations.
The figure has since plummeted, however, with improvement in inter-Korean relations last year in the wake of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, three South-North summits and the historic inaugural summit between the North and the U.S., showing how expectations of peace on the Korean Peninsula have positively impacted the CDS premium.
By Min Yea-Ji and Yoon Sojung
Photos = Kim Sunjoo
Video = Min Yea-Ji
Pangyo-dong, Seongnam | Dec. 26, 2018
Korea.net in 2019 is highlighting startups leading innovative growth in various sectors of the Korean economy. I-Bricks, the fourth company featured in this series, analyzes big data, a major engine propelling innovative growth, and provides a customized curation service based on artificial intelligence (AI).
Tony Stark, the protagonist of the blockbuster superhero movie series "Iron Man," has the perfect personal assistant in Jarvis. The artificial intelligence (AI)-based secretary not only searches for and delivers simple information but also makes jokes that require a perfect understanding of the surrounding context.
In contrast to a few years ago, when such technology was considered something found only in the cinematic realm, an AI personal assistant no longer sounds new or strange.
So when will something like Jarvis appear in the real world?
To find the answer and learn more about such assistants and big data, Korea.net sat down with I-Bricks CEO Chae Jong Hyun. His startup specializes in AI-based langauge processing technology and has developed the brain of a "curating robot," a device that debuted in Korea late last year.
"If we limit the area of the robot's functions such as display curating or guidance in museum facilities, we can upgrade an AI assistant’s capacity," he said.
This is because more specific words and sentences will be used in conversation if the area of dialogue is defined, he added.
CuAi, AI robot curator
Last month, a robot curator made its seemingly unfitting debut at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul.
When a visitor approaches the robot and asks about an item on display, it shows the item's location on screen and guides the person to it.
This is Culture Curating Artificial Intelligence or CuAi, a robot that guides and provides professional docent service backed by a leading AI technology empowering natural language understanding. CuAi can deliver detailed information on display items, facilities and services thanks to knowledge learning and dialogue training in all areas related to the museum.
Chae said, "A knowledge base with more data is needed to enable chatbots to have a close conversation with humans."
"CuAi is a robot that evolves and trains itself by studying its previous conversations with humans, especially questions it failed to answer. After accumulating conversational knowledge, it grows smarter and mimics human dialogue, advancing its capability."
Easing driving, teaching Korean
In the film, Jarvis is portrayed merely as a voice, not a robot, something similar to I-Bricks' next project. The company is developing a connected car technology set for release at year's end in which an AI personal assistant converses with a driver to help driving and boost convenience.
I-Bricks is also working on an assistant that teaches the Korean language. Citing the growing popularity of learning Korean abroad, Chae said, "We will develop a new Korean-language learning app that teaches Korean and provides virtual reality (VR)-based content without the need to go to an educational institute."
I-Bricks is working on this project in collaboration with Hancom, a Korean software developer best known for Hangeul Office (family of office software and services). This project will reflect the influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it requires leading next-generation technologies like AI, big data and VR.
"If a customer experiences innovation through our services and they change his or her life, that is true innovation," he said.
"We can call something 'AI technology' when it's something that provides a service similar to what humans provide and that they consider intelligent," he added. "It's our role to make such technology more human and provide it to customers.”
By Jung Joori and Lee Hana
Seoul | Dec. 28, 2018
Imagine that a patient with a persistent cough goes to see a doctor. After being briefed on the symptoms, the doctor will likely take a chest X-ray of the patient. Based on this radiograph, the doctor will look for abnormalities and perform a CT scan if something serious is detected.
Now imagine a different scenario in which an artificial intelligence (AI) device scans the same chest X-ray and finds abnormalities invisible to the human eye. This means a problem can be diagnosed early on and raise the likelihood of a full recovery.
Lunit, a Korean company specializing in AI-powered medical image analysis software, is banking on this very technology. Its medical solutions are based on deep learning algorithms that help doctors more accurately diagnose patients by detecting abnormalities in radiographs.
AI is considered a major growth engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, though advances in this field have fueled fear as well as anticipation. Lunit, however, stresses that its vision for its products shines a positive light on AI’s future given that the company’s goal is enhancing human capabilities rather than replacing people.
Korea.net spoke to Lunit CEO Brandon B. Suh on Dec. 28 at his company’s headquarters in Seoul’s Yeoksam-gu District to find about more about this cutting-edge technology.
"Innovation is the marriage of novelty and utility. Originality is important but we cannot call it innovation unless it has a useful function," he said. "I decided to apply our AI software to medicine because a one-percent increase in accuracy in this sector can save more lives than in any other field."
AI algorithm development backed by vast medical data
Founded in 2013, Lunit features among its products the Lunit INSIGHT for Chest Radiography, a deep learning software that diagnoses chest X-rays, and the Lunit INSIGHT for Mammography, a software for breast diagnosis and screening. Both software solutions show potential abnormalities with a heat map and calculate an abnormality score as a percentage, allowing doctors to make a final diagnosis based on these results.
"Chest radiography and mammography are among the most commonly used diagnostic procedures, performed over a trillion times annually in hospitals around the world. Unlike CT scans and MRIs, however, both of these methods compress 3-D images into 2-D ones, which affects diagnostic accuracy. This is what motivated us to develop our products," said Suh.
Lunit collects its data from 18 medical institutions including Seoul National University Hospital, Asan Medical Center, the University of California’s San Francisco Medical Center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This is because diagnostic accuracy depends heavily on deep learning of a vast amount of data. In this respect, Korea's high level of medical accessibility has proven considerably useful.
"Compared to the U.S. or China, medical costs in Korea are relatively low, which means diagnostic procedures are run more often and produce more data. Because most critically ill patients tend to be concentrated in Seoul's major hospitals, data collection is easy for us," Suh said.
Globally acclaimed AI software
Lunit's deep learning software has won top prizes at international competitions. In 2017, it earned the grand prize at the CAMELYON Grand Challenge, a pathology competition whose goal is to evaluate new and existing algorithms for automated detection and classification of breast cancer metastases in whole-slide images of node sections.
The same year, Lunit was the only Korean company to receive a mention on CB Insight's list of the world’s 100 most promising companies in private intelligence.
The addition of globally renowned diagnostic radiologists to the company’s panel of experts has also helped raise Lunit’s brand. The list of consultants includes Eliot Siegel of the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, a leading authority on digital medical imaging. Another is Khan Siddiqui of Johns Hopkins University, who is chief technology and marketing officer of Higi, a medical technology company that creates health station kiosks to allow patients to measure, track and act on their health statistics.
Suh said Lunit can make great medical strides using AI technology, adding, "Our long-term goal is to help doctors diagnose illnesses undetectable by the human eye and ultimately help as many patients as we can in the process."
By Jung Joo-ri and Hahm Hee-eun
Korea’s leading companies have received critical acclaim from major media in the U.S. and Europe, with Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics each putting an item on Time magazine’s list of Best Inventions of 2018.
Samsung’s QLED TV appeared in the toy, games and entertainment category. Time tech columnist Patrick Lucas Austin described the award-winning set as “a TV that blends into the wall,” adding, “Using the Ambient Mode, QLED TV allows you to display artworks, weather reports, personal photos, etc.”
LG’s CineBeam Laser 4K Projector also made the cut in the same category. Time deputy news director Alex Fitzpatrick said, "To replicate the theater experience at home, there are few better ways to do so than the LG CineBeam Laser 4K Projector.”
Time’s annual list of the best inventions spans ten categories and honorees are selected based on their originality, creativity, level of influence and usefulness. Voting is conducted via online submissions and nominations from its editors and correspondents abroad.
Hyundai Motor on Nov. 26 was named Manufacturer of the Year by BBC Top Gear magazine.
The magazine said, “Hyundai is the envy of global rivals by offering stylish models at affordable prices. Hyundai’s success of today is the outcome of humble yet steady devotion.”
Founded in 1993, BBC Top Gear is one of the U.K.’s top four automotive magazines.
This is the latest among several global accolades Hyundai has received this year. The carmaker on Nov. 22 was named Electric Vehicle Manufacturer of the Year at the GreenFleet Awards in the U.K. and Most Innovative Brand on Nov. 30 at Auto Trophy 2018 hosted by the German car magazine Auto Zeitung.
By Lee Yoonseo and Hahm Hee-eun
Korea's economic growth rate in the first quarter of 2018, from January to March, rose 1.1 percent, placing the country fifth among member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
In the fourth quarter last year, Korea demonstrated its second lowest economic growth rate in the OECD (0.2 percent), following Norway (0.3 percent). This year it has recovered its growth rate.
The OECD reported on May 27 that the average economic growth rate of its 23 member states in the first quarter of 2018 was 0.5 percent.
Korea, which achieved a 1.1 percent economic growth rate in the previous quarter, is now ranked fifth after Latvia (1.7 percent), Poland (1.6 percent) and Hungary (1.2 percent) and Chile (1.2 percent). Finland and Mexico also recorded a growth rate of 1.1 percent, tyeing for fifth place with Korea.
Previously in March, the OECD released its “Interim Economic Outlook,” and predicted that Korea's economic growth rate would be 3 percent in 2018 and 2019.