[Viewpoint] The future is what we make it out of

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[Viewpoint] The future is what we make it out of

The writer is the chairman and chief executive of Pohang Iron and Steel Co.
It’s 8 a.m., and Mr. A, an architectural engineer at a construction company, unplugs his car and tells it to head to the office.

He spends the trip looking over various media presentations on an electronic paper display.

At 2 p.m., he has an online meeting with officials in Jeju and Haenam to discuss the construction of an undersea tunnel, with the aid of a three-dimensional blueprint.

On his way home, he keeps an eye on stock quotes from around the world and makes trades using a screen on his sleeve.

When he arrives home on the 150th floor, he finds it in perfect condition - cool and impeccably clean thanks to his cleaning robot and domestic ubiquitous computing system.

It’s 8 p.m., and Mr. A lays on the sofa to watch an international soccer match on his 60-inch ultra-slim screen.

This may seem like a scene from a science fiction movie, but in fact it could be reality soon. Some of these devices, which once existed only in our imaginations or in movies, have already seen the light of day and will soon be part of our everyday lives.

An innovative idea can be made into a commercial product fairly easily - all one needs is adequate demand and the necessary materials.

The material determines the function and capacity of the product.

Therefore, a new material can bring forth a slew of new products or technologies. These innovative products then transform and enrich our everyday lives, making them fuller and more convenient.

Materials science shapes our future.

The future world of my imagination is more efficient, rich, comfortable and clean than today’s.

But to live in a cleaner environment, various environmental regulations must be enforced to make that a reality.

The government is supporting low-carbon, green growth to build a new economy based on environmentally friendly technology. This drive will change our wasteful lives into ones less dependent on greenhouse gases and will make our industries more eco-friendly.

But the plan is pricey and not easy to pull off, given the current state of our industry. Korea has incurred a total current-account deficit of $180 billion in trade with Japan over the last decade. Last year alone that deficit was $25.4 billion.

Of that total, the material trade deficit ballooned to $11.5 billion in 2008 from $5.9 billion in 2003, accounting for nearly half of Korea’s total deficit with Japan.

Imports of materials are necessary to feed the growth of new paradigms, but at the same time make us liable to hemorrhagic fund outflows. The more we export, the more we must import from Japan, resulting in a snowballing trade deficit.

If we push ahead with the low-carbon green growth policy under the current structure, we will continue relying on Japan for imports of new materials. Our efforts and dreams to formulate new growth engines and markets will actually end up enriching Japan.

We must be able to develop and secure new materials in order to achieve the status of an advanced country through low-carbon, green growth policies and genuine economic independence from Japan.

*The writer is the chairman and chief executive of Pohang Iron and Steel Co.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Chung Joon-yang
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