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Microsoft Korea to disband R&D unit

21 jobs lost as IT giant leaves Beijing as sole Asian R&D base

Microsoft Korea said Tuesday that its research and development workforce based in Korea will be dissolved by the end of next month.

With the Microsoft headquarters deciding late last year that the Asia R&D Center will be based in Beijing, the 21 R&D employees in Seoul were ordered to relocate, according to a Microsoft Korea official.

So far, 10 R&D workers based in its southern Seoul office have received calls to work at the U.S. software giant’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. However, positions for the 11 others are still undecided with them having the option to work at another department in Seoul or transfer to the firm’s support programs ― such as career consulting and recruitment.

None of them will be relocating to the Asia R&D Center in Beijing, said the official.

“The R&D team was an organization that was under the U.S. headquarters and it also had a direct report line to (Redmond),” said the Microsoft official. “We believe it will not have much of an impact in our operations here since it did not belong to the Korean branch in the first place.”

The news breakout takes place as Microsoft is aiming to increase the competitiveness of its R&D centers by consolidating them into six across many different regions: Redmond, Beijing, Cambridge, Bangalore, Silicon Valley and New England.

The R&D workforce in Korea has been responsible for localizing Microsoft software like Microsoft Windows or Office until 2000. But it began taking on duties involving technology cooperation and support with other Korean firms as the Redmond headquarters took care of the language part with its language packs.

As a result, the Seoul-based team was given timely R&D tasks from the Redmond office from that time.

“The move seems to indicate that the R&D organization within Korea has lost its appeal as Microsoft Korea is currently going through restructuring of costs as well as business reorganization,” said an industry source. “The decision also shows that Microsoft’s U.S. headquarters came to a conclusion that it will be better to set up the R&D control tower in China for the Asia region rather than in Korea, which is a comparatively smaller market.”

By Cho Ji-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube