Why We Shouldn’t Underestimate South Korea In The Race To AI Supremacy

South Korea Artificial Intelligence


Across the world, organisations with a focus on artificial intelligence are raising more money than ever before, with prominent Asian companies leading the pack. While China has been making strides with some of the most astonishing investments in AI, South Korea is also becoming increasingly visible in AI potential and investment initiatives.

It basically boils down to this: South Korea is following the same recipe that helped China become an AI leader. Both countries are aggressively putting aside funds for AI. While China rolled out a three-step programme describing its plan to become the world leader in AI by 2030, South Korea too published an AI strategy to become a Top 4 contender in AI by 2022, with an investment of over $2 billion in AI research and training. Being the home country of Samsung, South Korea has already secured this rank. And don’t forget the famous Go match which took place in South Korea between DeepMind’s AlphaGo and world champion Lee Sedol from South Korea.


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South Korea: Artificial Intelligence Business Ecosystem

Companies all across South Korea including hundreds of startups have AI technology as their offering. The innovation is real and can be elucidated with many examples. Here is one: The most recent models of North Korea’s home-manufactured “Jindallae” brand of smartphones have embedded artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition technology. 

The two phone models known as “Jindallae 6” and “Jindallae 7” utilise biometrics such as “fingerprint, voice, and face, and text recognition to guarantee high accuracy,” according to the ads. The phone can recognise the user’s voice and transform it into text, it continued, for the purposes of “managing business, memos, and contact.” Then of course, there is Samsung- a leading AI company with advancements in both software and hardware of AI. 

AI is not just targeted at end consumers as part of gadgets. Companies across Korea are trying to solve business challenges with AI also. For example, one of the largest conglomerates in Korea – KT – has a multitude of AI products, ranging from a GiGA Genie AI speaker for general consumers to AI technology applications into the B2B areas like apartment and car to office and hotel.

The country’s strong foothold in semiconductor, automotive, and electronics and robotics industry helps in strengthening its AI industry as well. The presence of world class technology companies like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai, and Samsung make it more vibrant for AI businesses to thrive.

In addition, corporations are also looking to get into AI technology. Samsung, LG, and Hyundai have shown great interest to invest in AI technologies. The country is home to many large well established tech companies such as that have each shown significant appetite to invest in AI. Therefore, it is clear that both the Korean government, investors, and companies think AI is an important technology for Korea.


South Korea: History of AI Promotion

The Intelligent Robots Development and Distribution Promotion Act was created in 2008 to push South Korea’s intelligent robot industry. While this was a positive step, things didn’t go as expected until the mid-2010s when the Korean government formed an advisory committee for the intelligent information society in October 2015. Then came the Intelligent Information Society Strategy in January 2016 when the government first announced its investment fund for promoting AI across the nation.

The AI R&D efforts in South Korea can be compared to the efforts US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where funding for AI projects is focused on areas such as public safety, medicine, and national defence are also in the plans.

To tackle South Korea the engineering talent gap for experienced, skilled AI professionals, South Korea is focused on building AI capabilities and skills through its education system, similar which China has also done.

The Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) formed an Artificial Intelligence Information Industry Development Strategy in 2016. The 70-page report called “Mid-to Long-term Master Plan in Preparation for the Intelligent Information Society: Managing the Fourth Industrial Revolution” cites the importance of AI alongside other converging technologies such as the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data analysis, and mobile technologies.

Under South Korea national strategy for AI, the country plans to leverage its prowess in memory chips to build the world’s most competitive AI chip industry, with new semiconductors having 25 times the processing speed and just one-thousandth the power consumption of existing integrated circuits.

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Vishal Chawla
Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.

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