By Kim Minji and Lee Hana
Korea is rising as a production base for vaccines and medication for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Samsung Biologics has signed contract manufacturing organization (CMO) agreements with two pharmaceutical companies abroad to make a novel coronavirus-neutralizing antibody, Yonhap News reported on Nov. 18.
The Korean company signed a deal in April with the U.K.'s GlaxoSmithKline and in May with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. In five months, Samsung has manufactured and delivered its initial supply to its partners.
Developed by Eli Lilly and mass-produced by Samsung, the antibody allows patients to receive treatment in a timely manner. The manufacturing timeline for the production of medical supplies was shortened by reducing the period for biomedical tech transfer to three months.
SK Bioscience in July signed a CMO deal with the U.K.'s AstraZeneca to produce COVID-19 vaccines. The following month, the Korean company signed a contract development and manufacturing organization agreement with Novavax of the U.S. on vaccine production.
GC Pharma signed a deal with the Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines developed by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Korean biotech company GL Rapha will manufacture a portion of the Sputnik V, the world's first registered vaccine against COVID-19 developed by Russia.
"Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies have the production capabilities and are now recognized and trusted around the world. This is proof that Korea has the competitiveness to serve as an advanced base for the Asian market," said Lee Jae-guk, executive director at the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association.
President Moon Jae-in on Nov. 18 attended a biotech event at Yonsei University's international campus in Incheon's Songdo district. He said the Korean biotech industry is safeguarding the health of humanity by fighting the pandemic, adding that Korea will grow beyond a production base into biotech powerhouse.
By Lee Hana and Lee Jihae
The government has published an English-language book that comprehensively outlines the country's systematic response to COVID-19.
Given rising global interest in Korea's exemplary fight against the pandemic, the book "All About Korea's Response to COVID-19" was released on Oct. 12.
The book is targeted at both foreign policymakers and readers and provides an overall view of Korea's quarantine system.
It gives a detailed explanation of progress in the development of Korea's response to COVID-19, the national response system for the pandemic and its operation, the government's "3T (test, trace and treatment)" approach, and immigration and screening measures.
The book cites the core values of K-quarantine as "openness, transparency, civic engagement and innovativeness" and mentions the social environment factors that form the cornerstone of the country's COVID-19 response system, including its experience with and handling of MERS, advanced information and communications technology, and public participation.
The book is available in the link below or the section titled "Korea's Response to COVID-19" on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' English-language website.
By Lee Kyoung Mi and Lee Jihae
Incheon International Airport on Oct. 14 became the world's first airport to use indoor self-driving vehicles and cart robots that carry passenger luggage.
The airport said the gizmos are intended to aid the mobility of special needs users and boost noncontact services.
The self-driving vehicles are undergoing trial operations, with two installed at the departure and arrival gate of Terminal 1 and the departure gate of Terminal 2 to assist users with special needs such as the disabled, senior citizens or pregnant women.
Two of the airport's six self-driving cart robots are installed at both terminals and the duty-free shopping section. They tag along with a passenger while transporting his or her luggage and guide him or her at the destination.
Those with special needs get priority in the use of these devices, but regular passengers can also use them as long as no inconvenience is caused to others.
The airport said it hopes the adoption of the two devices will boost user convenience and bolster the airport's reputation as a smart airport.
By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae
Korea ranks second in the world in the average speed of the fifth generation (5G) mobile network.
This is according to Opensignal, a London-based mobile analytics company that released on Oct. 13 a report titled "Benchmarking the global 5G user experience – October update." In a survey of the average 5G speed in 15 leading markets for the mobile standard, Opensignal ranked Korea as the world's second fastest with 336.1 megabits per second (Mbps) after leader Saudi Arabia (377.2 Mbps).
"In all but two countries, our users see average 5G download speeds over 100 Mbps," it said.
Nos. 3-5 were Australia, Taiwan and Spain in that order, as these three all had an average speed in the 200 Mbps range. The U.S. was the lowest ranked among the 15 countries with 52 Mbps.
Korea was also fifth in 5G service availability with 22.2%. Saudi Arabia topped the list again with 37%, followed by Kuwait (27.7%), Thailand (24.9%) and Hong Kong (22.9%). The bottom three countries were the U.K. (4.4%), Spain (4.0%) and Italy (3.1%).
Korea was the world's first to launch commercial 5G service when it did so in April last year. Part of the core infrastructure of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 5G is 20 times faster than 4G, can be connected to 10 times more devices and has a tenth of the lag time.
The technology is considered the driving force behind innovative changes in overall society, and thus major countries are engaged in fierce competition to gain dominance in the 5G ecosystem.
By Xu Aiying and Lee Jihae
Videos = Xu Aiying, dal.komm YouTube channel
Seoul | Oct. 8, 2020
"I'm so busy, so busy."
Robots on Oct. 8 looked quite busy at the Yeoksam Station branch of No Brand Burger in Seoul's Gangnam-gu District. A cooking robot was baking buns and frying patties based on order sequence and menu item. After cooking, it piled the food on a robot server.
The monitor on the robot server's head showed the order number and the sentence "A delicious menu is on its way." The robot moved through the tables and went toward the pick-up zone, where customers were waiting. As soon as it reached the pick-up zone, its screen read, "Enjoy your meal." The customer then checked the order number and picked up the food.
Opening on Sept. 8, the branch installed robot servers to stem COVID-19 by minimizing contact between staff and customers.
Customers watched the robot go back and forth between the counter, where buns and patties were prepared, and the pick-up zone.
Office worker Lee Myeong-geun said, "I'm increasingly worried about contact with other people because of COVID-19. So I think a robot server is a practical but fun idea."
As COVID-19 has ushered in a noncontact era, robots have gone from undergoing test trials at large coffee franchises to becoming more common in daily life. They are often seen at regular restaurants, and their role has been expanded to aiding chefs instead of just serving.
Robert Chicken, also located in Gangnam-gu, has two robot chefs. When an order is made, one covers the chicken in batter and the other fries the chicken.
The staff ensures that the fried food is not stuck together, sees if any ingredients are missing and packs the food. This store allows only delivery and takeout and can cook up to more than 100 chickens a day.
Robots also serve as baristas making coffee at cafes. Beat, a robot cafe at Lotte World Mall in Seoul's Songpa-gu District, has a robotic barista named Robin that moves its arms to lift cups, insert ice and extract coffee.
Through the window, the robot can be seen making coffee, and it even smiles at customers. It receives orders through a mobile app and kiosk and can customize the type of coffee bean, amount of syrup and density of the coffee based on customer preferences.
Given the expansion of noncontact culture due to COVID-19, Beat will expand to shopping malls, colleges, apartment complexes and highway rest areas, and thus do the same for its robot barista.
By Kim Minji and Lee Jihae
Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, citing a Forbes survey ranking Korea the third safest for COVID-19 among 100 countries, on Sept. 16 said, "This is an opportunity to confirm Korea's outstanding quarantine capacity."
Earlier on Sept. 3, the U.S. business magazine had ranked Korea just after Germany and New Zealand in the article "The 100 Safest Countries For COVID-19: Updated" based on a report by a Hong Kong-based think tank.
The study rated safety in 250 countries based on economy, politics and health related to COVID-19 using big data spanning six categories including quarantine efficacy, 30 indexes and 140 variables.
Korea ranked tenth in June when the global rankings were first announced and thus moved up seven notches.
Sharing the nation's jump in rankings on Facebook, Minister Hong said, "COVID-19 is not just the number of confirmed patients or deaths but holds another meaning in quantifying each country's capacity to respond to COVID-19."
"Detailed analysis has confirmed that despite being one of the world's most densely populated countries, Korea has confirmed the excellence of K-quarantine through its remarkable quarantine capacity."
He added, "The higher ranking reflects civic quarantine efforts nationwide, policy toward public welfare and efforts to revive the economy."
By Kim Minji and Yoon Sojung
Samsung Display on Sept. 16 released a foldable OLED display panel with the world's smallest curvature of 1.4R for a smartphone.
The 1.4R rating refers to the curvature of a 1.4-mm radius circle. The smaller the figure, the more perfectly a device can be folded.
Samsung Display's breakthrough of the smallest OLED curvature on the market means a near-perfect fold for such smartphones.
This is Samsung's third foldable OLED panel and has a resolution of 2,208×1,768 pixels and a 7.6-inch screen, bigger than previous models.
The new display has received praise for its slim and sleek design thanks to the lower curvature rating of the folding area. It was first applied to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 of Samsung Electronics launched last month.
LG Electronics has also introduced a smartphone innovation through the LG Wing.
Released online on Sept. 14, the new model has a rotatable main display that enables multiple shapes.
The LG Wing can be used as an ordinary smartphone but when needed, the main screen can be moved clockwise to unveil the hidden 4-inch secondary screen that can be used with the main one. One app can run both screens or one app can be used for each screen.
Equipped with Gimbal Motion Camera for the first time in the world, the Wing allows more stable and gentle video shooting.
From next month, the model will be launched in Korea, North America and Europe in phases.