Tracing 50 Years of Korea's Electronics Industry Development

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Will Korean ICT Continue to Retain its Championship?
Monday, April 12th, 2010

The first-part of the tenth installment - Ed.

The origin of success, according to author Malcolm Gladwell, is that it takes 10,000-hours of effort to master a skill. Those who overcome become outliers of the world. South Korea is currently ranked first in the world in the Digital Opportunity Index (DOI) with a perfect score of 0.80. This record also results from the combined efforts of the government and its citizens.

But how long would Korea be able to hold this championship? The past inspires us, but it's the present that promises the future. For this April's edition, Korea IT Times collected stories from both the past and present to verify the claim: Korean ICT will continue to retain its championship.

Prologue: Ethnicity

A piece of Korean literature, Dangun Myth, was passed from generation to generation in order to inspire Koreans to believe that the first stage of mankind was the effort and endurance.

A bear and a tiger ask the heavenly father, Hwan-oong, to change them into human beings. Hwan-oong challenges them to survive 100 days in a dark cave eating only garlic and mugwort. The tiger gives up after a few days, but the bear proceeds. Noting the bear's determination to finish what she started, the heavenly father turns the bear into a beautiful woman after only 21 days. The heavenly father marries her and bears the first son, Dangun, who established the very first kingdom on the Korean peninsula.

This Korean myth represents the national characteristics of the country. Ethnicity is a great asset of Korea that made ITC related opportunity, infrastructure, and utilization well known to the global market.

Study Case # I: Trinity of Government

While the U.S. has a 100 year history in communications; Korea had a dark age in communications until TDX was successfully developed in the 1980s. It has only been eighteen years since a complete telephone service was universally provided.


Hyung Tae-geun

Hyung Tae-geun, the Standing Commissioner of the Korea Communications Commission

"It is after the 1990s; the government's blueprint for informatics, regulatory power system, and the active market formed a trinity to strengthen IT. 1994 is a crucial year for Korean IT since, that was the year in which the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) and the Information Superhighway Cluster were formed. Within two years, we succeeded to commercialize CDMA for the first time in world history. By the millennium, "a mobile phone for everyone" campaign spread across the nation and commenced a high-speed Internet era. Less than a decade of work  and the government helped the companies to survive through the IMF, which led to the creation of IPTV," Hyung Tae-geun, the Standing Commissioner of the Korea Communications Commission said.

Korea became an IT juggernaut only within twenty years due to a trinity of government, enterprise, and market. The Ministry of Information and Communication played a role of a lighthouse in the development of IT by lighting up the dark areas with breakthrough strategies and polices. WiBro, DMB, IT convergence products and contents, all bloomed faster than anyone could imagine. However, could these be enough to retain the IT championship?

Study Case # II: Renaissance Era with Korea Communications Commission

"Then there was five years of dark age. All the cutting-edge technology and world's noted IT infrastructure had to take the detour sign on a highway due to the hegemony battle between broadcast and communications. In the meantime, developed countries like the U.S. have gradually caught up with us with wireless Internet and started a whole new trend. For big continents like North America wireless Internet is very suitable. With the magnetic levitation train full of competitive technology, we failed to follow up with wireless Internet trend," Hyung Tae-geun explained.

In 2006, a commission on broadcast and communications was formed to serve as a highway patrol. In March 2008, this commission was officially named as Korea Communications Commission, and succeeded to make IPTV Special Act within three months. Digitalization Special Act was followed by to complete the support system, and showering policies accelerated WiBro service as well as the development of LTE. "The policies and strategies played a vital role to shorten 1000 meter gap into 10 meter gap in the global competition. Our policies are now shifting to promote the rapid expansion of convergence and green growth industry by strengthening regulations and collaborating system," Hyung Tae-geun said. If five- year- frozen system was reactivate by KCC within two years, any upcoming trials and errors of new business plans are likely to be carried to the destination on a superhighway.   

Study Case # III: Clear vision of u-Society

The Digital Media City in Seoul is the first high-tech complex in the world for digital technologies and a test-bed for new futuristic concepts such as ubiquitous computing.

The key to the u-Technology or u-World is full application of hi-tech infrastructure we have been securing. Korea is the most wired country in the world, with the world's highest broadband Internet access per capita, and the fastest average Internet connections with a nationwide 100Mbps fiber-optic network that is currently being upgraded to 1 Gbps by 2012. Hyung Tae-geun added, "As the word ubiquitous suggests, any technology and devices should be able to be used at anytime, at anywhere. IT infrastructure, for an example, is expected to revolutionize the worker's lives. A woman could work at home while parenting her child and a diabetic patient can get a daily check up with his doctor via the Internet.  If less people use fuel to transport to work, that will automatically reduce the CO2 emissions. We can too, become a world's champion of the green growth industry."

Sleepless in Korea

Korea is the first among major economies in the Global Innovation Index. Although Korea is noted for legendary success in various sectors of global competition, its legal system has not yet gained the global conscious. "We already have proven the efficiency of our government system by fixing the five year worth of problem in two years. Not many countries are out there who have developed tremendously only in five decades. We must overcome the institutional backwardness with e-Learning, e-Teaching, u-City, and u-Medical system." The detour signs are taken off the IT highway and each ride are patrolled by KCC to retain the IT championship of the world.

Full Series Schedule
For those interested in past or future issues of this series, here isthe full schedule of the series:

July 2009: an overview
August 2009: The electronics industry is born
September 2009: Electronics industry gains momentum
October 2009: Color TV production opens a new vista
November 2009: Radios, cassettesand electronic watches change lifestyle
December 2009: The personal computer arrives
January 2010: TDX1 introduced into the local network
February 2010: TFT LCD allows determination of film thickness
March 2010: CDMA comes into commercial use
April 2010: U-technologies (part 1)
June 2010: U-technologies (part 2)
July/August 2010 : WiMAX opens

September 2010 : Era of IPTV

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