Whither Korea's Display Industry?
Whither Korea's Display Industry?
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  • 승인 2006.08.01 12:01
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Opinion Korea need to revise its strategies on R&D to remain competitive Evolution of Korea's Flat Panel Display (FPD) business TFT-LCDs began to be produced for the first time in Korea in 1995 by Samsung Electronics and LG Philips for notebook PCs. After 11 years since then, the FPD market has grown into a 50 trillion won industry by 2006. This includes the 25 trillion won market for LCD modules and the 14 trillion won market for parts and materials, while the rest is accounted for by applied products. The core of TFT-LCD business is related to TFT arrays, liquid crystals, and display technologies. In the case of TFTs, Samsung and LG Philips have adopted identical technologies while different methods are used for producing crystal liquids. Such differences are expected to have a great influence on their businesses as time passes by. In the case of LCDs and PDPs alike, the manufacturers are exerting every effort to lower the production cost based on the view that this will affect their very existence. In the display market, Korean manufacturers are in stiff competition with foreign companies; " competing in LCDs with companies in Taiwan and with Matsushita of Japan regarding PDPs. The final victory in this kind of competition can unexpectedly be awarded to a company that secures special materials and equipment ahead of others. The rivalry between LCDs and PDPs Last year, PDPs occupied about 90% of the 40-inch television market. However, LCDs and PDPs have begun to take up almost an equal share of the 40-inch TV market since the German World Cup. Of course, PDPs account for more than 90% of the 50-inch or more TV market. Since the competitive edge of LCDs in the large display market will be strengthened as time passes by, LCDs are forecasted to account for about an equal share of the 50-inch TV market three to four years from now. In the case of the 60-inch TV market, too, LCDs are expected to take up about half of the market seven to eight years from now. However, PDP manufacturers are continuing to invest in PDPs as the growth rate of the global PDP market is expected to exceed that of LCDs. Since the average size of TVs in homes continues to grow, the PDP market also continues to expand. The point is that the winners of the war between PDPs and LCDs are not the suppliers but consumers in general. What chance of survival of OLEDs Since OLEDs are in their initial stage of development, the OLED market is a relatively smaller market than that of its rival display devices. In 2003, the OLED market stood at about US$250 million due to the rise in sub-display use of PM OLEDs in the mobile phone markets of Korea, Taiwan and North America. Still, the market has accounted for only less than 1% of the total FPD market since 2003, too. In a way, it can be said that the future of OLEDs depends on Samsung SDI. This is because SK Display and Sony, the producers of AMOLEDs, all failed to acquire production technologies. If Samsung SDI fails too, then it may be difficult for AMOLEDs to be used as component parts in mobile products. This is because the timing of market entry by a product is key to the commercial success of displays. Can FED/SED TVs be available at home FED is an advanced display with most merits since its weight and volume can both be reduced, while keeping intact the superior display qualities of existing cathode-ray tubes. FEDs have various merits such as thin shapes, power-saving, low processing costs, excellent temperature traits, and high-speed operability. However, the popular use of the product is in question since its mass production is difficult. In order to materialize FEDs, trial products centering on metal tips, are being developed and demonstrated. Even so, and as metal tips have shown limits in panel size and price, the research on CNT-FED, which has adopted CNT emitters and thick film processing techs, has been on the center stage of FED research. In the midst of this, Toshiba and Canon recently announced that they would jointly develop SEDs and put them into TVs for commercial use. However, the timing for implementing this plan has continuously been delayed, much to the regret of FED researchers. The most difficult aspect of the FED/SED business is that it will be placed in a more disadvantageous position in its competition with LCDs and PDPs, since the market entry of FEDs and SEDs continues to be delayed. When can the mobile phones mounted with flexible displays be available A flexible display is the most ideal choice to be used as a mobile display. However, it has to overcome the weakness that its production is difficult due to technological reasons as in the case of AMOLEDs and FEDs. Accordingly, the future of flexible displays all depends on how one secures manufacturing technologies. As flexible displays are differentiated from existing glass displays, the product has its unique status on the market. Electric papers are expected to be supplied within two to four years from now since they are the easiest to make on plastic boards. However, a considerable period of time is thought to be required to produce LCDs and OLEDs with flexible boards. Could the production base for displays move to China Today, the production base for TFT-LCDs is limited to three countries, namely Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The market leadership, too, has been shifted from Japan to Korea, and then to Taiwan as in the same order of their market entries. In the midst of this, the technological development and manufacturing expertise of Taiwan have reached the same level as those of Korea. In addition, China, which already has two TFT-LCD plants, is constructing one additional plant. Since China is similar to Taiwan in terms of culture, language, and business skills, it can quickly learn production technologies from Taiwan. The business fields where the three countries have the most competitive edge today are mobile businesses in the case of Japan, monitors and notebooks for Taiwan, and TVs for Korea. Given this business mix; it becomes quite a difficult task to forecast how this will have changed by China's entry and excessive production facilities. In the midst of such tide of change lies Korea's future. With Japan standing at the center, display firms have initiated strategies to acquire Blue Ocean businesses by equipping themselves with materials and equipment of their own. Only when Korea revises its strategies on R&D, at both the national and private levels, can it remain as a leader in the display field.

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