The domestically developed Korean satellite CAS500-1 (Compact Advanced Satellite 500-1) is launched on March 22 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, a spaceport in Baikonur, southern Kazakhstan. (Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

By Lee Jihae

A next-generation mid-size satellite independently developed by Korea was launched on March 22.

The Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said, "The CAS500-1 (Compact Advanced Satellite 500-1) was successfully launched at 3:07 p.m. this afternoon (Korean Standard Time and 11:07 a.m. Kazak Standard Time) at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan."

The satellite was loaded on the Russian projectile Soyuz 2.1a when launched. It made its first communication with a ground station within 102 minutes after liftoff and safely entered its target orbit.

The CAS500-1 was developed to utilize the 500-kg mid-size "standard platform" by its supervisory body Korea Aerospace Research Institute. Korean aerospace companies also participated in the satellite's independent technological development.

The launch came six years after the satellite's development began in 2015.

The CAS500-1 is slated to remain in a synchronous orbit around the sun for six months at an altitude of 497.8 km. From October, it will provide detailed ground observation videos of the Korean Peninsula for use in responding to disasters, observing water resources, and managing land and resources.

Minister of Science and ICT Choi Kiyoung said, "This launch has laid the cornerstone for boosting the satellite industry and thus sent a flare signaling the 'K-satellite era,'" adding, "It is significant that science and technology have greatly contributed to enhancing the people's quality of life and offering hope during the difficult COVID-19 era."



Korea this year ranks eighth in global digital competitiveness according to the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD). (IMD homepage)

By Kim Hyelin and Yoon Sojung

Korea ranks eighth this year in digital competitiveness, up two notches from last year.

The Ministry of Science and ICT on Oct. 3 said Korea this year placed eighth among 63 countries in digital competitiveness as ranked by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

The country has steadily risen on the list over the last few years, going from 19th in 2017 to 14th in 2018 and tenth last year.

The IMD rankings measure a country's capacity and preparedness in 52 detailed criteria under the three factors of knowledge, technology and future readiness.

The U.S. finished No. 1 and Singapore second on this year's list, the same as in last year. Denmark ranked third, followed by Sweden, Hong Kong, Switzerland and the Netherlands. China placed 16th and Japan 27th.  

Korea showed overall improvement by earning higher scores in all three factors.

Korea ranked third in future readiness, up a notch from last year, thanks to its top scores in e-participation and internet retailing under the adaptive attitudes section. The category measures a country's readiness in digital transition.

In technology, Korea ranked 12th, up five notches from last year and mainly led by having the world's second-fastest broadband speed. The category measures capacity for digital innovation development.

In the knowledge section that gauges the capacity for understanding, discovering and expanding new technology, Korea ranked 10th, up from 11th from last year, thanks to high scores in expenditures on research and development (R&D) and R&D personnel per capita.

The ministry said in a news release, ''Through cooperation with other government ministries, we will improve weaker indexes such as those on technology development and adaptation, fostering female researchers and investment in the communications sector.''



Incheon International Airport on Oct. 14 became the world's first airport to launch trial services for indoor self-driving vehicles (right) and cart robots. (Incheon International Airport Corp.)

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.


Opensignal, a London-based mobile analytics company, said in its report "Benchmarking the global 5G user experience – October update" that Korea has the world's second-fastest average 5G speed at 336.1 Mbps after Saudi Arabia (377.2). (Yonhap News)

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.


Opensignal of the U.K. on Oct. 13 has ranked the 15 leading 5G markets by average 5G speed and service availability. (Screen capture from Opensignal website)



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.





The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Sept. 19 held an event at Sejong Lake Park in Sejong Special Self-Governing City to test drones that deliver food, like the one pictured here. (Yonhap News)

By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has held an event at Sejong Lake Park in Sejong Special Self-Governing City showing how drones can deliver food.

The event on Sept. 19 was the first time for drones to be shown delivering food to people downtown.

Under the theme "Safe drones that make our lives convenient," organizers had five drones deliver hamburgers, chicken and macarons.

Three drones received orders via apps, departed from Sejong City Hall, flew 2.5 km as they crossed the Geumgang River and safely delivered food to the park. Another two left from an industrial park in the city's Naseong-dong neighborhood, crossed a throng of skyscrapers, and delivered food 1.5 km away. The average delivery time was 10 minutes.

The five multipurpose test drones were from domestic drone manufacturers such as Doosan Mobility Innovation and X Drone.

The event confirmed the drones' relevant technologies such as automatic takeoff and landing, flight routes and ordering systems using apps exclusively for delivery drones.

Jeong Yong Sik, the ministry's director general for aviation policy, said, "The government will provide various support so that industries using drones can become part of daily life as quickly as possible."



The artificial intelligence robot Curly in March 2018 prepares its stone for a test match at the Icheon Training Center of the Korea Paralympic Committee. At the time, Curly lost a two-end game against a high school team, 3-0. (Korea.net DB)

By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae 
Video = Korea.net 

An artificial intelligence (AI) robot developed by Korean researchers has won three out of four games against a curling team comprising top female players and members of the national wheelchair team.

A research team led by professor Lee Seong-whan from Korea University's Department of Artificial Intelligence told the global journal Science Robotics on Sept. 24 that the robot, named Curly, achieved this result through "deep reinforcement learning."

Deep reinforcement enables the AI robot to adapt in real time without relearning to its exposed environment, which has a variety of variables and high uncertainty. Through real-time adaptation, the robot stably fulfills its task.

The report said Curly set over three to four days pitching strategies and internalized the strength and direction for pitching and methods to control the swirls of the stone. As a result, it came to possess skills close to that of a curling professional.  

Curling is an official event of the Winter Olympics. The ice field can be irregular depending on the venue's temperature and humidity and ice maintenance. Thus a player needs to consider these elements.

Professor Lee said his team developed the core technology to develop an AI curling robot with the performance level of a skilled athlete. He said the achievement is notable as AI technology based on machine learning can lead to performance at the level of a skilled competitor.

The professor said, "We note that the insights obtained within our framework on how to alleviate challenges such as strong temporal variability, uncertainties, and continuousness are readily transferable for contributing to other real-world applications of comparable complexity in robotics and beyond."

He first developed Curly back in March 2018 at the time of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. At the time, the robot lost, 3-0, in its two-end game against a high-school curling team. 



200818_President Moon_green smart school_01

President Moon Jae-in on Aug. 18 gives a speech at Changdeok Girls' Middle School in Seoul's Jung-gu District at a meeting on the "Green Smart School" project.

By Lee Kyoung Mi and Lee Jihae
Photos = Yonhap News

President Moon Jae-in on Aug. 18 called education "a core investment field for a new future" and said he hopes for changes in the people's daily life through the "Green Smart School" project under the Korean New Deal.

He said this in a morning videoconference with municipal and provincial superintendents of education after visiting Changdeok Girls' Middle School in Seoul to experience smart education. Changdeok is classified as a green smart school.

The project is one of the ten key tasks of the Korean New Deal announced on July 14 by President Moon. The plan is to turn schools nationwide with aging buildings into high-tech learning facilities based on digital and eco-friendly technology.

The president's visit reflected his intent to set up an educational environment that enables integrated education offline and online anytime and anywhere.

President Moon said online and offline courses were successfully implemented through the nation's first online opening of the school year amid COVID-19 and a thorough quarantine system, thanking schools, students and parents for such success.

The project will receive funding of KRW 18.5 trillion by 2025 to make groundbreaking improvements to an estimated 2,835 schools with old facilities. The government expects the project to create 150,000 jobs and play a pivotal role in reducing CO2 emissions.

200818_President Moon_green smart school_02

President Moon Jae-in on Aug. 18 participates in a science class utilizing augmented reality technology at Seoul's Changdeok Girls' Middle School, which is classified as a green smart school.





The Ministry of Science and ICT on Aug. 20 said that by year's end, it will install free Wi-Fi at an additional 10,000 public facilities such as libraries and bus stops. The photo above is of a KT technician installing public Wi-Fi at the public library in Seoul's Eunpyeong-gu District. (KT)

By Xu Aiying and Lee Jihae

The number of public places with free Wi-Fi nationwide such as libraries, bus stops and parks is skyrocketing.

The Ministry of Science and ICT on Aug. 20 said that as part of its Digital New Deal, it will add free Wi-Fi at 10,000 more public places by year's end.

The objective is to add free Wi-Fi at 41,000 public places by 2022.

The ministry offers free Wi-Fi at 18,000 public places in the country.

Since this year, the ministry has broken away from its emphasis on free Wi-Fi at indoor facilities and has sought to offer it at more outdoor places like bus stops, small regional parks and sports and exercise spots.

The 18,000 public Wi-Fi access points installed before 2014 will be replaced with the latest Wi-Fi 6 gear to greatly enhance service quality.

The ministry said, "We will foster an environment where people can use data as freely as they want at any public facility they use daily."


Deputy ICT Minister Kim Jeong-won gives a speech on July 23 at the opening ceremony of an artificial intelligence-powered identification and tracking system verification at Nuriggum Square in Seoul's Mapo-gu District. (Ministry of Science and ICT)

By Lee Kyoung Mi and Lee Jihae

The Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Justice on July 23 said they opened a tracking system verification lab to advance the management of immigration affairs based on artificial intelligence (AI).

The AI tracking system is a next-generation form of immigration management that uses facial recognition technology to distinguish those entering and leaving the country for detection and prevention of crime and danger.

Located at Nuriggum Square in Seoul's Sangam-dong neighborhood, the lab allows AI companies to implement projects for processing, studying and verifying data.

It implements security systems such as physical security facilities, communications networks, and the designation and management of access authority for safe access to immigration data owned by the Justice Ministry. 

By allowing AI companies to safely access immigration control data exclusively in a fully-equipped verification lab, both ministries said they expect the companies to boost their technological competitiveness through the utilization of data that had been difficult to access.

"This project will create new industries and jobs through data and AI to become a leading model of the Digital New Deal that boosts public convenience," the ICT Ministry said. "In the future, we will expand AI convergence to a variety of sectors."



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