Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Korean Government Announces "Smart Work" Initiative

The Korean government on Tuesday announced a "Smart Work" initiative that aims to have 30 percent of public employees work from home or nearby "smart-work" centers by 2015 with smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices.  The move is hoped to boost productivity and minimize carbon emissions.
As reported by The Korea Times, the country is on the cusp of a mobile broadband explosion. According to plans jointly announced by the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the Presidential Council on Information Society, government organizations will spearhead the efforts to plug the workplace into the Web.
The plan calls for thirty percent of private sector employees to work at home or in the smart work centers, the same percentage as for government workers.   This will be an interesting initiative to watch, to say the least!

Monday, July 12, 2010

English Teaching Robots in South Korea

South Korea has targeted the robotics industry, specifically intelligent service robots, as a growth industry for the future.  An interesting recent development in this field is the introduction of Engkey, and English-teaching robot, into elementary school classrooms in Seoul.  Engkey is a penguin-shaped robot developed by a team at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology's (KIST) Center for Intelligent Robotics that recognizes the human voice.   Read the New York Times account for an interesting description of how Engkey interacts with school children.
The introduction of Engkey (click on graphic at left to see a full-size version) was part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology's plans to use robots as teaching aids.  In February, the Ministry began deploying hundreds of them as part of a plan to equip all 8,400 of the nation's kindergartens with robots by 2013.
Work at the Center for Intelligent Robotics illustrates Korea's ambitious plans for the robotics industry. Last month, it announced a trial service for 11 types of intelligent robots this year. They include “kiosk robots” to roam amusement parks selling tickets, and “robo soldiers” that will man part of the 155-mile border with North Korea with a never-sleeping camera eye, night vision and lethal fire power.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Korea's First Half IT Exports Set a New Record

The Joongang Ilbo reports today that Korea's IT exports are at record-setting levels.  The graphic accompanying this post shows the recent pattern (click to see a full-size version).  Not surprisingly, semiconductors and flat panel displays are leading the export surge.   Exports of mobile handsets, a traditional Korean export strength during the feature-phone era, dropped 20.8 percent during the first six months of this year, due to a decline in export unit prices and a delay in smartphone production by Korean firms.
The regional pattern is also interesting.  Korea exported the most IT products to China, selling $33.1 billion worth of items in the country, followed by the European Union with $8.99 billion, and the United States at $8.49 billion.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Korean Cultural Treasures Now Being Shown on YouTube

I was very happy to learn via a short article in the Chosun Ilbo, that Korea is beginning to share videos of its cultural treasures on a YouTube Channel.   This is one small example, but a very good one, of how South Korea can go about improving its national image.  I could imagine the Korean heritage channel on YouTube being supplemented by channels dealing with many other interesting topics about Korea.  Meanwhile, this cultural heritage YouTube channel is a very good start.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Changing Shape of Research and Development in Korea

Korea's transformation since the early 1980's has been an information-based revolution.  When I say "information-based," I include education, research and development and technology development, all of which are related.  One of the broad trends in Korea over the past three decades has been the growth of private-sector R&D in relation to government-sponsored R&D.  The English web site of the Korea Industrial Technology Association contains some data to back this up.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version of it) the number of corporate R&D Centers in Korea more than doubled over the past nine years, from 7,110 in 2000 to 17,522 in 2009.  As shown in the data below the bar graph, the vast majority of these research and development centers were created by small and medium sized enterprises.   According to the same web site, nearly half of all of these R&D Centers were situated in the "electronics and electrics"  sector.  The distribution of R&D fields can be seen in the second graphic (again, click to see a full size version).