The Chang’e-4 shock

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The Chang’e-4 shock

China has landed on the far side of moon, putting itself on par with or possibly above the United States in space exploration. Its space vehicle Chang’e-4 on Thursday touched down on the so-called dark side of the moon to give mankind the first prolonged glimpse of what the opposite side of the moon looks like. Americans and Soviets have never ventured so far due to the harsh climate that makes it difficult for vehicles to gain ground control.

Communication with Earth is also a problem that China solved by launching a special satellite to relay the rover’s data and images. The Chung’e-4 achievement is as big as the launch of Sputnik, when the Soviets beat the Americans in putting the first satellite in orbit around the Earth in 1957. The shock was so huge that it dominated the 1960 election campaign, in which Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy questioned if America could stay on top in science and technology.

The United States recovered its pride by being the first to send a human to the moon in 1969 and maintained unrivalled supremacy over the last 50 years. But China now poses a serious challenge.

China proved its technological prowess with Chang’e-4. Space engineering is comprised of multiple realms of precision, such as materials and communications technologies, requiring a huge industrial value chain. The shock could be equally heavy to Korea, which already is being closely chased by China in key industries. China is expected to outpace Korea in wireless mobile devices and displays within three years. China also has been galloping along in the electric vehicle battery segment. Huawei poses a formidable challenge to the world’s largest smartphone maker, Samsung Electronics. China is also making fast strides in semiconductors. The feat by Chang’e-4 should be another wake-up call to Korea Inc.

Korea has been making little progress in new industries due to red tape. China already boasts advances in artificial intelligence, fintech, and big data. New industries have flourished as China exempts new businesses from existing regulations for five to 10 years. Unicorn enterprises, or start-ups valued over $1 billion, number 162 in China. In the first half of last year alone, 52 joined the unicorn club. Korea has five.

At this rate, Korea’s future is gloomy. The solution has been obvious for a long time. Korea must lift regulations that block new industries. What the president needs to crack down on is not “past wrongdoings” but outdated regulations. There is no time. Action must take place immediately.

JoongAng Sunday, Jan. 5, Page 30
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