Committee formed to refine tech policies

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Committee formed to refine tech policies


President Moon Jae-in’s committee on the “fourth industrial revolution” celebrates its launch at Gwanghwamun in central Seoul on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in’s ballyhooed committee on the “fourth industrial revolution” launched Tuesday with members pledging to play a supportive role in fine-tuning the government’s efforts to spur research in advanced technologies.

“Our top goal will be applying the opinions of the private sector on policies pursued by different government departments,” the committee’s chairman, Chang Byung-gyu, said during the launch at Gwanghwamun in central Seoul. “The committee’s role is not to come up with a plan and then pass it onto the government.”

The committee’s first meeting will be held next month, and the members plan to draw up a general policy direction by November.

The committee consists of 20 members from the private sector, academia and government. In particular, eight of the nine private-sector members come from the internet and artificial intelligence businesses. The committee’s chairman, Chung Byung-gyu, is chief strategy officer at game developer Bluehole. He was appointed by the Blue House to lead the committee late Monday.

Chang is a prominent figure in Korea’s tech industry and start-up community. A graduate of the country’s leading science and technology school, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Chang founded Neowiz, a company that created a program to simplify connecting to the internet, with a friend in 1996. The company later created a messaging program called SayClub and is today a major game publisher.

But Chang moved on from the company when he founded a search engine start-up in 2005 that was eventually bought by portal giant Naver. In 2007, he created his current game development studio, Bluehole, as well as a start-up investment firm called Bon Angel Venture Partners. In the past decade, the firm has invested in 115 start-ups, most of them in their early stages. One of the benefactors was Baedalminjok, now Korea’s leading food delivery app.

Chang was reportedly offered the role of minister of SMEs and start-ups, which he turned down.

Other private-sector members of the committee include Lim Jung-wook, former CEO of Lycos and now managing director of the Startup Alliance; Joo Hyung-chul, former CEO of SK Communications and currently CEO of the Seoul Business Agency; Moon Yong-shik, founder of Nowcom, which created one of Korea’s most popular online media content platforms Afreeca TV; Park Chan-hee, SK Telecom’s senior vice president of product development who has also worked at leading Korean IT companies like NCSoft and Naver; Baek Seung-uk, CEO of Lunit, which makes medical image analysis software based on artificial intelligence; and Tony Lee, CEO of Saltlux, which also develops artificial intelligence software.

The academics on the committee have been drawn from the fields of technology, bioscience, welfare and business management and economics. Among government officials, the members include Paik Un-gyu, the trade minister; You Young-min, the minister of science and ICT; Kim Young-joo, the labor minister; Moon Mi-ok, the president’s senior secretary on science and technology; and the minister of SMEs and start-ups, which is yet to be filled.

During the launch ceremony, Chung stressed the need to communicate with different government agencies to create a unified direction.

“We have to focus on readjusting fourth industrial revolution policies proposed by different government departments as well as the president and the Blue House, so that there won’t be any confusion,” Chung said.

Regardless of debate on whether the current changes taking place in the tech world should be defined as a “revolution,” Chung said it was clear they were having an effect on people’s lives.

“At first the influence was limited to a small area, but today, it is directly affecting so many places in our society,” Chung said. “We shouldn’t approach this as a one-time event or in the short term - that will not bring about social changes. We have to see it in the long term and from the perspective of a gradually changing society.”

With the United States leading in software, Germany in machinery and Japan in robotics, Chung said it was hard to tell at this point what Korea’s strength might be.

“There is definitely something that Korea is ahead of [compared to] other countries,” Chung said. “Whether it is a country or a company, no one can be good at everything. Korea needs to find areas that it is good at.”

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