[LETTERS to the editor] Broadening the field of weather forecasting

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[LETTERS to the editor] Broadening the field of weather forecasting

Cheokugi (an apparatus for measuring precipitation) was invented in 1441 under the reign of King Sejong in the Joseon Dynasty. This is world’s first meteorological equipment, even preceding Galileo’s thermometer invented in 1592 and Torricelli’s mercury barometer in 1643, by far.

Recently, our country’s field in meteorology has applied the same DNA to develop tremendously, once again ,and score in the top seven of the meteorological powerhouses in the world. About 20 years ago, reliance on simple weather charts and the experience of the forecaster was replaced with accurate forecasting based on numerical figures. Now, the forecast is provided from collecting real-time weather information from around the world and inserting it into a forecasting model in a supercomputer.

In addition, the forecaster’s level-headed decision making and know-how from experience come together to make a highly accurate forecast. And for this, Korea invested 260 billion won ($225.02 million) solely on importing meteorological equipment from foreign countries in order to construct forecasting infrastructure.

Recently, the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), on top of its original task of forecasting, is receiving educational training requests from developing countries with the goal of gaining forecasting skills. In the past 10 years, our nation educated and trained about 56 countries on forecast, satellite and information-communication technology of Korea. With the request from meteorological agencies of developing countries, Korea is dispatching meteorological advisors into those countries in order to aid in the modernization of their forecasting business.

Countries in Southeast Asia and Africa are showing extreme interest in how Korea has become a forecasting powerhouse in such a short period of time. In short, the “Korean wave” is extending to the domain of weather forecasting. In spite of the stunning development, Korea’s footing in forecast industry is weak.

The meteorological technology market around the world is growing in size every day­- the size of the United States is at nine trillion won and Japan is at five trillion won. However, Korea’s meteorological market remains around 64.4 billion won, based on 2010 statistics. Out of those, 70 percent is taken up by equipment purchase from the KMA. Because of this, the competition between meteorological equipment suppliers is obviously bound to overheat.

The weather industry estimates Korea’s optimal weather/climate market scale to be around two trillion won. It is only after it passes this minimum line can it be used to apply the weather disaster prevention and weather or climate information. Our nation will also be able to correspond effectively to the meteorological collaboration with developing countries.

The weather industry has the potential to be a new exporting industry. Korea can export not only meteorological equipment, but also forecasts and climate data. Russia, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia, especially, are optimal for export. They are, first of all, geographically close, and by linking our relatively outstanding weather technology, they might have the advantage in competing with other meteorologically developed countries. Furthermore, Asia Development Bank and the World Bank recently have been requesting cooperation and mutual support for the meteorological advancement in developing countries.

If we have been heavily relying on importing weather equipment, now is the time that Korea needs to put forth independent meteorological equipment, technology, merchandise and weather experts in order to ultimately reach out to the global market.

*Vice president and professor of business administration at Inje University
By Lee Joong-woo

Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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