South Korea to invest $7B in AI in bid to retain edge in chips

By Reuters   April 8, 2024 | 11:23 pm PT
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Tuesday his country will invest 9.4 trillion won ($6.94 billion) in artificial intelligence by 2027 as part of efforts to retain a leading global position in cutting-edge semiconductor chips.
South Korean PresidentYoonSuk-yeolspeaks at an interview with Reuters in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 28, 2022. Photo by Reuters

South Korean President YoonSuk-yeol speaks at an interview with Reuters in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 28, 2022. Photo by Reuters

The announcement, which also includes a separate 1.4 trillion won fund to foster AI semiconductor firms, comes as South Korea tries to keep abreast with countries like the United States, China and Japan that are also giving massive policy support to strengthen semiconductor supply chains on their own turf.

Semiconductors are a key foundation of South Korea's export-driven economy. In March, chip exports reached their highest in 21 months at $11.7 billion, or nearly a fifth of total exports shipped by Asia's fourth-largest economy.

"Current competition in semiconductors is an industrial war and an all-out war between nations," Yoon told a meeting of policymakers and chip industry executives on Tuesday.

By earmarking investments and a fund, South Korea plans to significantly expand research and development in AI chips such as artificial neural processing units (NPUs) and next-generation high-bandwidth memory chips, the government said in a statement.

South Korean authorities will also promote the development of next-generation artificial general intelligence (AGI) and safety technologies that go beyond existing models.

Yoon has set a target for South Korea to become one of the top three countries in AI technology including chips, and take a 10% or more share of the global system semiconductor market by 2030.

"Just as we have dominated the world with memory chips for the past 30 years, we will write a new semiconductor myth with AI chips in the next 30 years," Yoon said.

Yoon also noted that the impact of the recent earthquake in Taiwan, a global leader in semiconductors, on South Korean companies was limited as of now, but ordered thorough preparation in the event of uncertainties.

($1 = 1,355.1200 won)

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