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[ECONOMY AT RISK] Korea’s software still behind despite hardware prowess

The Korea Herald is publishing a series of articles on the alarming state of the country’s economy and the challenges to be addressed. This is the fifth installment. -- Ed.

South Korea’s software capacity such as artificial intelligence and smart cars has much to be desired due to the lack of personnel, investment and partnership among industries, experts said.

According to data from Hyundai Research Institute, Korea’s AI technology is still at the 75 percent level compared to the nations holding the most advanced AI technologies.

Although the nation’s major tech firms including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Kakao, Naver and SK Telecom have started the development of AI technologies, their capacities are still behind global tech firms. 


“Korea’s AI technology is more than three years behind other advanced nations,” said Park Myung-soon, a chief of SK Telecom’s future technology R&D center.

This is because of the lack of investment especially in collecting big data, alongside the government’s regulations, she explained.

Insufficient technology in the AI area came from the lack of capacity in software, experts said.

“The investment and personnel in software by Korean tech firms including Samsung Electronics are still very inadequate compared to global companies such Apple and Google,” said Chung Tae-myung, a professor at Sungkyunkwan University’s Department of Software.

Samsung admitted it in June through an in-house broadcast, saying “Only 1 to 2 percent of Samsung Electronics’ software engineers are capable of entering Google,” denouncing its lack of software capacity.

Apart from artificial intelligence, Korea is still behind in the fields of smart cars and the convergence between cars and information technology, experts said.

“Despite the rising demand for information technology in the auto industry, Korean auto and tech companies are not able to satisfy the demand due to the lack of IT-related software personnel in both sectors,” said Hong Seong-soo, a professor at Seoul National University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

This is in stark contrast with the German automobile industry, which is full of IT vision and personnel, he added.

Alongside the lack of software experts, local auto and tech companies are unenthusiastic in cooperating with each other, industry watchers said.

“Although Korea’s auto and IT technology are at the world’s top level, the smart car industry has not yet developed to that level due to the lack of convergence between cars and IT,” said Kim Kyung-yoo, a researcher at Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade.

The nation’s largest IT firm Samsung and auto giant Hyundai are currently lukewarm toward partnership although they continue to work with foreign firms including Israeli tech firm Mobileye, Google and Mercedes-Benz.

By Shin Ji-hye (