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South Korea to invest 2.2 trillion won in bid to seize the lead in AI technology by 2022

South Korea to invest 2.2 trillion won in bid to seize the lead in AI technology by 2022

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has recently
announced a 2.2 trillion won budget for research and development in artificial
intelligence (AI) and expansion of AI-related infrastructure as part of the
nation’s bid to transform the country into an AI heavyweight by 2022. The
announcement comes as South Korea seeks to provide assistance to local
technological development to gain parity with regional counterparts and
gradually reduce foreign dependence.

According to a
memorandum

released by South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT on 15th May 2018,
artificial intelligence forms part of the Data-Network-AI (DNA) framework for
South Korea’s approach to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Cognisant of the
significant socio-economic impact developments in artificial intelligence will
bring about, the allocation of 2.2 trillion won to artificial intelligence
research and development and infrastructure seeks to build up skill and talent
in the field so as to give South Korea a strong head-start vis-a-vis the global
competition.

The 2.2 trillion won budget will be allocated to a number
of  large-scale projects in national
defence, medicine and public safety, establishing six AI graduate schools with
the aim of cultivating 5000 AI specialists, as well as strengthen
public-private partnerships in artificial intelligence research and
development.  The proposed 5000 AI
specialists comprise 1400 AI researchers and 3600 data management specialists,
all providing the backbone which South Korea’s drive towards AI development
will depend upon.

By fostering the growth of AI, South
Korea hopes to catch up with the likes of China and Japan and eventually emerge
as a global AI powerhouse by 2022.

The Ministry of Science and ICT’s allocation of 2.2
trillion won to establish the country as a leading player in global AI R&D
comes as a response to the disproportionate amount of investment regional and
international competitors are receiving.  

This month, the Chinese city of Tianjin recently announced that it will set up funds
worth 100 billion yuan
in total to bolster the growth of the
local artificial intelligence industry; by comparison, the 2.2 trillion budget
announced by Seoul is only slightly more than an eighth of the budget announced
by Tianjin. 

In addition, the Ministry for Science and ICT also acknowledges
that the country’s progress in artificial intelligence trails significantly
behind that of China and the US, but possesses “good
conditions” for artificial intelligence development due to the “accumulation of
significant data”
.

According to Minister for Science and ICT You Young-min,
“the fourth industrial revolution is both a crisis and opportunity for the
country which relies on people as its main resource”, and that “the era of the
fourth industrial revolution is a smart world” in which there is a strong
degree of human and digital connectedness. By allocating funds to AI research
and development, South Korea seeks to build a better foundation to leverage on
technological developments for socio-economic progress.

In addition to funding AI research and development and
expansion of AI-related infrastructure, part of the budget will also fund the
creation of South Korea’s Supercomputer No.5. Startups and small-and-medium
enterprises in the country will be able to utilise the supercomputer upon full
operation. 

Not all of South Korea’s efforts to further develop AI have
been met with positive responses, however. In April, a number of
internationally prominent AI researchers called for a boycott of the Korea
Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) due to the university’s
partnership with South Korean arms manufacturer Hanwha Systems to develop
weaponised AI technology for military use. National defence has been cited as
one of many fields in which large-scale AI projects will be executed in, and it
remains to be seen if South Korea’s investment in AI development and
infrastructure will result in more controversy.

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