Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Second edition of Digital Development in Korea forthcoming

I'm pleased to let readers of this blog know that the second edition of my book with Dr. Oh Myung (I am the second author) will be published this summer, with a new subtitle.  The full  title is Digital Development in Korea:  Lessons for a Sustainable World
Digital development in Korea, with its world-leading networks, is a moving target!  Dr. Oh and I had thought a second edition would be needed after about five years, but other important matters required attention.  Nevertheless, this new book benefited greatly from my work at SUNY Korea over the past five years.  Also, it goes without saying that Dr. Oh's authorship of this volume makes it a unique and important account of what I would call the modern history of Korea's ICT sector.
Some of the key additions to the new book are as follows:

  • A new chapter on sustainability and green growth, with emphasis on smart grids.
  • Another new chapter on the relationship of ICT to the Olympics (Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games and Seoul 1988 Summer Games)
  • Greater emphasis throughout on the concept of "network-centric digital development," including its origins, growth and prospects.
  • More extensive and in-depth treatment of the "telecommunications revolution of the 1980s."
During January and February of this year, Dr. Oh and I worked intensively to finalize the manuscript for submission to Routledge.  Earlier this month (May) I reviewed and commented on a copy edited version of the manuscript.  The next step will be to review the page proofs.  Consequently, I have confidence that the July 31 availability date for the printed book is accurate.  See this Routledge page for information.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Korea's place in the race to 5G networks


In my own research and work with Korean colleagues I have characterized Korea's digital development as "network-centric," beginning with the revolutionary developments that took place in the 1980s, starting with the influential and visionary Long Term Plan to Foster the Electronics Sector.  The latest phase in this network-centric approach to national development involves the global race to build and commercialize 5G mobile networks.  The Korea Joongang Daily today published an interesting account, asking whether all the effort to be first with 5G was worth it.  Projections of growth in the global 5G market, along with the broad range of service markets that will utilize 5G would certainly seem to indicate its worth. 
However, as shown by a map of KT's 5G base stations as of April 2019, completion and commercialization of Korea's 5G networks is a long term project.  Network construction has started in the Seoul/national capital metropolitan area and other large cities.  Even in those cities, the project has a long way to go.   As noted by The Korea Joongang Daily  "The remaining task for the government and mobile carriers now - apart from building up 5G infrastructure to stabilize the network - is to build a solid 5G business ecosystem that can turn the network from a futuristic technology to an actual moneymaker."  In its efforts to accomplish these tasks, Korea is engaged in a race that is global in scope. another report on 5G by The Korea Joongang Daily.
Although Samsung Electronics may provide much of the network equipment for Korea's 5G networks, in the global context it still represents a small market share, as shown by the accompanying graphic.

Robot workers in Korea

Empirical data show that Korean workers put in some of the longest work hours of any country in the world.  However, Korea's industrial robots work even longer!  Furthermore, the use of industrial robots has grown in large part because the main engine of Korea's export-led economy is the ICT sector.  As shown in this graphic from Statista, (click for a larger version) Korea continues to lead the world in manufacturing robot density (the number of installed industrial robots per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry).  As noted in the Executive Summary World Robotics 2018 Industrial Robots, as of 2016 the electrical/electronics industry became the most important customer for industrial robots in almost all major Asian markets, e.g. China, Japan, Republic of Korea. Korea leads the way and Singapore has been rapidly catching up with about 90 percent of industrial robots in both countries installed in the electronics industry.  Writing this short post reminds me of the day I spent with Goldstar (now LG ) before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, including a tour of their manufacturing facility for VHS video recorders.   I was struck at the time by the extensive use of robots in the manufacture of videocassette recorders.   Looking ahead, where will this all lead?   Hint:  Korea will likely be a world leader in the emergence of the Internet of things (IoT)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Smart mobility system coming to Songdo

The local press is covering the signing of a business deal under which SK Telecom will build a 5G-powered smart mobility system in Songdo.  As reported by The Korea Times, under the agreement SKT and the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) "...will join hands to set up the 5G-based self-driving infrastructure, nurture related industries, and establish a data hub. SK Telecom said it plans to create high-definition (HD) maps in an area spanning 132.9 square kilometers, based on the firm's high-end 5G networks. HD maps, exclusively designed for autonomous vehicles, provide accurate information on the road ahead as well as the surrounding environment."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rocky start for 5G service in Korea

As the Chosun Ilbo English edition reported yesterday, 5G mobile service in Korea is "off to a rocky start."  The three mobile service providers were unable to deliver the speeds expected by customers who purchased 5G compatible phones. 
The slower than expected speeds delivered by 5G compatible phones were widely covered in Korea's mainstream media.  The Korea Joongang Daily reported that "LG Electronics has been in talks with mobile carriers to delay the release of its first 5G smartphone to ensure stable service."

SK Telecom to build a smart Korean Military Academy

As reported in The Korea Times SK Telecom is working with the Korean Military Academy to build a smart KMA.  It will feature "...high-end fifth-generation (5G) networks, enabling cadets to conduct military exercises using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology... Under a business agreement, SK Telecom and the Army's elite school will cooperate in developing a smart KMA with 5G networks and other cutting-edge information and communications technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), AR, VR, the internet of things, cloud computing and big data." The goal is to introduce advanced technologies based on 5G networks in all areas of activity at the Korean Military Academy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

More on the decline of PC Bangs (Internet Cafes)

The Korea Joongang Daily today reports on the decline of both PC Bangs (Rooms) and Norae-bangs (Korean style Karaoke rooms).  As readers of this blog will know, I've posted frequently on this topic over the years.   Based on data from the national tax service, the Korea Joongang Daily reported that Korea had 10,480 PC Rooms as of January 2019.  (click on the graphic for a full-size version).  This figure caught my eye because I had recently updated a bar chart showing the number of PC Bangs in Korea for inclusion in my forthcoming book (with Myung Oh), Digital Development in Korea:  Lessons for a Sustainable World.  That chart, also shown here, indicated that the number of PC Bangs had decreased to 10,655 by 2016, the last year for which data were available from the Korea Creative Content Agency.
Clearly, the pattern from 2016 through January of 2019 is one of the total number of PC  Bangs leveling off.   Given developments in the game industry, the growth of e-sports and the rising popularity of mobile games it may be that 10,000 or so PC rooms represents the number that are needed to meet continued consumer preferences in the Korean marketplace.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Spring 2019 lecture series in SUNY Korea department of technology and society

My department at SUNY Korea (Department of Technology and Society) launched a formal lecture series this semester (click on the poster for a full size version) and I had the privilege of giving the initial presentation on the topic "Network-centric Digital Development in Korea:  Origions, Growth and Prospects." A thank you to Professor Mark D. Whitaker for organizing this series.  For readers of this blog I thought the lecture series and a couple of photographs from my presentation would illustrate another aspect of what I do here from day to day.  For me personally, the series provides a welcome chance to learn more about the research being pursued by my departmental colleagues.




Saturday, March 30, 2019

OpenSignal report and Korea's lead in network speed

As readers of this blog will know, the speed of digital data processing and transmission was one of my recurrent concerns in earlier posts (see these for example).  A new (February 2019) report by OpenSignal confirms that Korea's 4G mobile networks are still the world's fastest.   The report makes interesting reading.  One of its main findings is that 4G speeds around the world "...vary tremendously across the day, showing the impact of congestion on daytime speeds."   (click on the graphic for a full size version)
The OpenSignal report indicated that Korea ranked number one in the world in average download speed, but it broke this down into 4G speed at the slowest hour of the day compared with speed at the fastest hour of the day.  Part of the graphic is shown at left.  Currently, 4G users around the world experience a wide range of download speeds between the slowest and fastest hours of the day.  Furthermore, cities see the greatest speed swings, indicating daytime congestion that might be relieved by 5G.  As noted in the report, "Users in Paris experienced the greatest range of 4G Download Speeds, fluctuating between 21.5 Mbps and 51.4 Mbps in a 24-hour period, followed by Sydney and Santiago. Worryingly, New York's fastest hour for 4G speed of 40.8 Mbps was in a virtual dead heat with the 40.6 Mbps Seoul’s inhabitants experience at their slowest hour of the day. But Seoul’s slowest hour of day is still faster than the fastest hour of day in Taipei (38.2 Mbps), London (38.3 Mbps) and 21 other cities analyzed." (My emphasis added in the quote)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

2013 Daejon presentation on "Innovation Clusters in the Creative Economy"

I just ran across this video of a presentation I gave at a Daejon conference in 2013 and thought I'd share it here.  My thinking has evolved somewhat since then.


Heated competition to build 5G networks

The nation's mobile service providers, KT, SKT and LG U+ are engaged in cut-throat competition to install 5G base stations, in order to achieve the widest possible network coverage when the service starts in April.  As reported by The Korea Times, "The three companies have competitively announced or plan to make known the number of base stations they have built, vowing to offer the fastest mobile network service with the widest coverage."  For example, "...LG Uplus said Wednesday that it has built 18,000 5G base stations in Seoul and surrounding areas as well as some metropolitan cities, noting that it plans to build 50,000 base stations within the first half of the year."
The engineers shown in the photographs (click for a full size version) accompanying The Korea Times article are hard at work adding to the already ubiquitous mobile base stations on rooftops and towers all around the nation.   The work they do is a reminder that the installation of next generation mobile network infrastructure is a long-term and expensive project.  The initial installations will take place in expressway rest stops, airports, conference centers and other locations that are densely populated or frequently full of visitors.  There is also the challenge of ensuring good 5G signals inside buildings.  As noted in the article,"Industry officials expect construction of nationwide 5G networks to be completed sometime in 2022 or 2023, given that it took about four years for third-generation and fourth-generation, or LTE networks to be set up nationwide."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Korea's smartphone zombies--a solution?

This Reuters video documents a new solution being proposed for South Korea's "smart phone zombies." I would only add a couple of points for context.   In practice, the rules of the road in Korea place very little stress on the "pedestrian has the right-of-way" which is so basic too driver education and related laws in the United States.  Second, my casual observation indicates that a very high percentage of pedestrians are multitasking -- texting, talking or doing something else on their smart phone while walking.   The statistics cited in the video on pedestrian casualties in traffic accidents should bring attention to this matter.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Samsung develops 3rd-generation 10nm-class DRAM

As reported by The Korea Times, Samsung Electronics has developed a new, more powerful memory chip.  The new chip's productivity is 20 percent higher than previous chips and is also the smallest such chip produced to date.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Olympic marathon in the DMZ in 2032?

Readers of this blog will know that I've posted frequently about the role of ICT in the Olympics (check these posts) and on the future of the demilitarized zone (see also these posts).  The latest development in these areas is the news that the two Koreas may jointly bid to host the summer Olympics in 2032.  As reported by The Korea Times, a working draft of Seoul's bid to co-host the 2032 Olympics with Pyongyang suggests that "...Olympic runners and cyclists may be able to compete inside the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ).  The Seoul Metropolitan Government says the DMZ ― a symbol of painful division and the ongoing military standoff between the two Koreas ― is under review as a possible venue for long-distance outdoor events like marathon, cycling and triathlon competitions if it gets to host the games with Pyongyang."

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Korea's digital export decline

An article in the Korea Joongang Daily underscores the extent and nature of Korea's dependence on the manufacture and export of digital technologies.  The headline is "Export decline picks up speed in January."  As shown by the accompanying graphic (click for a full size version), the leading exports responsible for this overall decline are all digital (ICT sector) manufactured products.  (NOTE:  there is a typo in the black and white bar chart included in the graphic-- the bar for "January 2018" actually represents data for January 2019.  Also, in the bottom part of the graphic, red bars under the heading "Export growth of 13 major products" represent positive growth while the blue bars show declining growth.) However, the article strongly supports the main point of this post, that Korea's export-led economy, while ICT-driven, is heavily (perhaps too heavily) dependent on manufactured products rather than software and services.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Korea will lead the world in 5G

The GSMA Mobile Economy 2018 report, along with its regional report, The Mobile Economy Asia-Pacific 2018 contain some interesting projections.  Both reports analyze the time frame from 2017 to 2025.  Globally, the reports project likely trends.  One of these is that the Asia-Pacific Region will lead the transition to 4G and then 5G. 
The graphic (click for a full size version) reveals the report's finding of greatest interest to me.  It is from the Asia Pacific report and shows that South Korea is currently the world leader in 4G and smartphone adoption, and is projected to lead the way on adoption of 5G as well by 2025.  I've chosen to include data for Japan in this graphic because it is the country most closely positioned to compete with Korea.   For further detail, read the GSMA reports, linked above.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Deep Mind's Alpha Star defeats Starcraft Pros

It happened, and earlier than expected.  AlphaStar, the latest iteration of Alphabet's DeepMind last month defeated some of the world's best professional players of StarCraft.  As readers of this blog will know, (check out my earlier posts) this development holds particular significance in South Korea, where StarCraft became the world's first massively popular multiplayer online game and influenced the introduction of this nation's world-leading broadband networks.  Furthermore, the 2016 defeat of world champion Lee Se Dol by DeepMind's AlphaGo had sent shockwaves through Korea's public, industry and policymakers about the future of artificial intelligence (AI). 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Semiconductor shock?

Interesting article in the Korea Times on what it calls "semiconductor shock."  This has been more widely reported this week in the Korean press. To understand the percentages in the accompanying graphic, I recommend reading of the article.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Semiconductor super cycle to end in 2019

As reported in the Korea Joongang Daily, industry sources are reporting that the semiconductor super-cycle that sustained Korea's exports during 2017 and 2018 will likely come to an end this year (2019).  The article contains some interesting details, including the following. (click on graphic at left for a full size version)
  • "Last year, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix enjoyed-record breaking performances. The combined DRAM market share for the two companies as of end of the third quarter was 73.5 percent. Samsung Electronics currently holds the No. 1 spot in the global market with a share of 43.6 percent, while SK Hynix has 29.9 percent of the market. Micron Technology is in third with 21.6 percent."
  •  "The outlook for the three main markets for semiconductors - smartphones, computers and data centers - is negative.
    It is estimated that last year 1.44 billion smartphones were shipped. If that number holds and is not revised, 2018 would be the first year since 2007 - the year of the iPhone’s introduction - in which the market has contracted."