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Artificial intelligence (AI) comprises a range of technologies that enable computers to undertake intricate tasks such as data analysis, decision-making, and interpreting speech, text, and visual cues.

Positioned at the forefront of contemporary technological progress, AI fosters efficiency and innovation across both personal and business areas. It employs various techniques, primarily machine learning (ML) and deep learning; and is deployed in numerous sectors including data analytics, object recognition, language processing, prediction, recommendation systems, and intelligent data extraction.

According to Statista, projections for 2023 anticipated the artificial intelligence (AI) market size in South Korea to reach approximately KRW 2.6 trillion. The local AI sector is predicted to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 14.9 percent, reaching an estimated KRW 4.5 trillion by 2027.


South Korea at the Forefront of Global AI Innovation

The Ministry of Science and ICT recently announced that Korea plans to invest KRW 710.2 billion (USD 527 million) across 69 sectors this year to foster innovation/s driven by artificial intelligence (AI). This initiative aims to integrate AI into people's daily lives, industries, and government administrative services.

A government-led study predicts that successfully incorporating AI across various sectors could generate an annual economic impact of KRW 310 trillion by 2026. This initiative, and the study, were launched alongside the AI Strategy High-Level Consultative Council—a governance body dedicated to leading the nation's comprehensive AI innovation strategies.

The council's establishment aims to enhance Korea's ability to address issues such as low birthrates and stagnant growth, particularly as AI finds increasing applications not only in manufacturing but also in various social sectors. The ministry anticipates that this initiative will help propel Korea to become one of the top three AI nations globally by strengthening its AI capabilities.

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Led by the Minister of Science and ICT of the Government of South Korea, Lee Jong-ho, and Taejae University President, Jaeho Yeom, the council includes 32 members from the private sector; IT companies like Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom, KT, NAVER and Kakao; and director-level officials from various government agencies.

Minister Lee Jong-ho emphasized the council's role in guiding the national AI innovation direction amid the growing influence of generative AI (GenAI). He highlighted the ministry's commitment to quickly implementing measures to ensure citizens and businesses can see tangible benefits promptly.

“We hope that the council will serve as a stepping stone for the nation's AI advancement, enriching the lives of our citizens, and setting a leading example of harmonious coexistence with AI on the global stage,” Jong-ho stated.

The council aims to lead innovations in the global AI technology market, facilitate AI adoption across all industries, and enhance AI-based services in everyday life. Park Sang-ook, Senior Presidential Secretary for Science and Technology, underscored the importance of advancing technological innovations, industrialization, and services while addressing legal systems, policies, and ethical norms.

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A study conducted by Bain & Company suggests that AI's successful implementation could yield an annual economic impact of KRW 310 trillion by 2026, including an annual revenue increase of KRW 123 trillion from AI-integrated products and an annual cost reduction of KRW 185 trillion through enhanced efficiency and automation. The next strategic council meeting will be held in June, where follow-up actions and new agenda items from the inaugural meeting will be announced.

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South-Korean Lead AI Initiatives

Samsung has set up seven AI hubs in five different nations, undertaking innovative endeavors such as crafting fresh machine learning algorithms, AI chips, and on-device AI solutions.

Additionally, during CES 2024, Samsung unveiled its vision—AI for All— aiming to transform the interaction between users and devices through spatial intelligence and SmartThings. Spatial AI empowers devices to understand users' living environments and behaviors, facilitating personalized home management. By incorporating LiDAR technology for digital floor mapping and enhancing Bixby's capabilities, Samsung devices offer more dynamic and intelligent interactions within smart homes, enhancing efficiency and user-friendliness as they work together.

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South Korea is taking significant strides in spearheading artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives. President Yoon Suk Yeol has announced plans to invest KRW 9.4 trillion (USD 6.94 billion) in the AI sector by 2027. Additionally, South Korea aims to commercialize the 6th generation of mobile communication (6G) by 2028, two years ahead of schedule, under the K-Network 2030 initiative.

Collaborations and partnerships also play a crucial role. South Korea has formed a Green Digital Economy Partnership with Indonesia and launched a collaborative framework with Cisco under the Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program to boost digital transformation.

In the realm of telecommunications, KT launched the world's first 5G-powered bus in Seoul in 2019, while SK Telecom is expanding its global presence with the 'ifland' Metaverse Platform. SK Telecom has also invested USD 100 million in the U.S.-based AI firm, Anthropic, to enhance its AI-driven telecommunications business and upgraded its AI service “A.” with new features for smarter conversational AI.

Furthermore, the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital has adopted a private cloud system for its clinical data, demonstrating the integration of AI in healthcare. In collaboration with Iceotope Technologies and SK Enmove, SK Telecom is developing advanced liquid cooling solutions for AI data centers.

Lastly, SK Telecom has partnered with NTT DOCOMO and SAPEON, a global AI semiconductor company backed by South Korea's SK Group; together, the entities aim to revolutionize AI innovation. These initiatives collectively highlight South Korea's robust efforts to lead AI advancement and digital transformation.

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The applications of AI extend across a wide array of fields, encompassing healthcare, finance, transportation, and entertainment, fundamentally altering how tasks are executed and insights are gleaned. Through continual learning and adaptation, AI systems refine their accuracy and efficacy over time, presenting unparalleled opportunities for automation and enhancement.

As AI advances persist, its integration into daily life becomes increasingly commonplace, heralding transformative shifts in societal operations. From tailored services to self-driving vehicles, AI-driven solutions hold the potential to revolutionize industries, streamline decision-making processes, and ultimately elevate the quality of life for individuals worldwide.

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