Boosting AI in South Korea

Yesterday, the South Korean government announced it would spend 1 trillion won (US $840 million) by 2020 to boost the artificial intelligence industry. This announcement comes just after the excitement of the recent set of matches between Lee Sedol,  South Korea's Go champion,  and AlphaGo, Google's artificial intelligence computing system.

President Park Geun-hye

The government plans to support the establishment of a high-profile research center that will serve as a "pivot" of the nation's research and development in the AI field. Samsung and LG Electronics, SKT, KT, Naver, and Hyundai Motor have decided to join the initiative. Each company plans to invest about 3 billion won. 

"Once the private companies set up the research institute, the government will provide financial support for core R&D projects," the ministry said. The government hopes the institute will open as early as possible, but the participating firms will make the final decision.

The Underdog

South Korea is considered "an underdog" in AI development. The government has come under public criticism as  South Korea lags behind other nations in preparing for the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution. 

In terms of numbers, the global artificial intelligence market was estimated at $127 billion last year, but it could reach as much as $165 billion this year. South Korea accounted for 3.2 percent of the world's AI market, according to the country's official data.

The country hopes to catch up to the U.S., which launched the BRAIN initiative in 2013 with the goal promoting the development and application of related technologies. It calls for $3 billion investment over a decade. Google, IBM, Facebook and Amazon are among the frontrunners.

It seems that live-streaming the AlphaGo event garnered a lot of positive attention. This could be the first step in South Korea playing catch-up with its AI competition. 

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