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Korea now No. 2 LED producer

Local firms’ bold investment in television production and upbeat global demand turned Korea into the world’s second-largest maker of light-emitting diodes last year, the government said Tuesday.

Combined sales of Korean LED manufacturers more than doubled to 6.9 trillion won ($6.35 billion) last year worldwide from 3.1 trillion won in 2009 and more than tripled from 2.2 trillion won in 2007, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

The country also swung into the black in the global LED trade, logging $414 million surplus last year. That marks a significant turnaround from a $172 million deficit in the previous year.

The No. 2 spot is also up two notches from fourth place in 2009.

The strong figures coincide with local electronic companies’ aggressive investment in LED TVs. Samsung Electronics, the Korean high-tech bellwether, commercialized LED TV production for the first time in the world in 2009.

“Korea is a latecomer in the global LED market but rose to a key player in a short period of time,” the ministry said in a statement.

LED has emerged as a next-generation source of light in recent years as it makes brighter, clearer and more vivid displays while using less energy.

The government has been propping up the burgeoning industry since 2008 by promoting LED lighting in the households, businesses and public sector.

LED accounts for 14 percent of the total lighting systems at municipalities and state-run corporations nationwide, and 8 percent at the public institutions, the ministry said. More than 90 percent of all traffic lights carry LED bulbs at present.

In a bid to boost distribution further, the government is encouraging replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED lamps in the private sector by providing tax benefits for those who adopt them. It also wants to ban production and sale of incandescent light bulbs starting 2014.

In the electronics field, LED secured strong potential.

Despite the currently fragile demand for TVs in rich economies, DisplaySearch projects the LED TV market to reach 100 million units worldwide next year and more than double in 2013.

Shares of LED TVs within the liquid crystal display TV segment would exceed 67 percent next year, from less than half this year, the research firm said.

By Shin Hyon-hee (