The Korea Herald


Park to set up science and technology council to overhaul R&D

By 박형기

Published : March 17, 2016 - 20:04

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President Park Geun-hye said Thursday she would create and preside over a strategic council on science and technology that will overhaul South Korea's research and development process.

The proposed council is designed to "drastically enhance productivity in R&D investment," Park said in a meeting with officials and experts on artificial intelligence and software at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office.

The council -- to be composed of about 20 civilian experts and public officials -- will come up with a strategy on key issues related to science and technology and how best to coordinate plans for growth.

The move came in a hastily-arranged meeting amid heightened public interest in artificial intelligence following the high-profile matches between Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo and South Korean Go champ Lee Se-dol.

AlphaGo, designed by Google's London-based firm DeepMind, beat Lee 4-1 in the five-round Go tournament that ended Tuesday.

Park said AlphaGo served as a wake-up call in South Korea over the importance of emerging technologies.

The chief executive called on officials and experts to speed up technological innovation in information communication technology, including AI, to nurture new industries and create new jobs.

Park also said the government needs to overhaul regulations and provide timely assistance to private research centers that can lead growth in the cutting edge industry.

Also Thursday, the government said it would spend 1 trillion won ($840 million) by 2020 to boost South Korea's AI industry.

Besides such measures, Seoul plans to support the civilian-led establishment of a high-profile research centers tasked with serving as a "pivot" for the nation's R&D in the AI field.

Six major South Korean companies have decided to join the initiative, according to the government. The six companies are Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Hyundai Motor and South Korea's No. 1 portal provider Naver Corp. as well as SK Telecom, South Korea's biggest mobile carrier, and South Korea's No. 2 mobile carrier KT.

Separately, Park renewed her calls for labor reform in the latest push to help create jobs amid high unemployment of young South Koreans.

The jobless rate among people between ages 15 and 29 surged to an all-time high of 12.5 percent in February, up sharply from 9.5 percent tallied a month earlier, according to government data.

In September, labor, management and the government produced a landmark deal to ease labor restrictions. The deal would allow companies to dismiss workers who are either negligent or underperforming.

Still, parliament has yet to endorse the labor reform bills, despite repeated pleas by Park and the business community.

"Reforming the institution and practice of the country's labor markets is an essential strategy for survival, not a choice anymore," Park said in a luncheon meeting with leaders of several dozen companies at the presidential office. (Yonhap)