Science & Technology News from the Republic of Korea
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY NEWS FROM THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA, MAY 2009 Please note that the previous newsletters from January 2009, can be downloaded from the website of the embassy of Switzerland Table of Contents Science and Technology in South Korea…………………………….……………………………………. 1 Life Science / Biotechnology / Health Care………………………………………………………………… 1 Information & Communications Technology……………………………………………………………. 2 Energy / Environment…………………………………………………………………………………………. 4 Education…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4 Contact Philipp Stalder Science and Technology Counsellor Embassy of Switzerland in Seoul, Republic of Korea Tel: +82 2 739 9511(ext. 722) Email Web: 1. Science and Technology in South Korea First research ice breaker ship Araon made in Korea A shipbuilding project led by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs since 2004 to build infrastructure for the South and the North polar research is coming to the end (A 6950-ton icebreaking shipbuilding project from 2004 to 2009 with 103 billion won of building cost, currently 88% complete). The ministry and the Korea Polar Research Institute announced that they appointed a captain, a chief engineer, a first electronic engineer and a first electric en- gineer who are responsible for the operation of the Korea's first research ice breaker ship and recently conducted a training program for them in Norway. MLTM and the Korea Polar Research Institute have a plan for the first naviga- tion of the icebreaker vessel in order to test the icebreaking capability and explore a site for the second station in the South Pole from the end of this December to next year's mid March. 2. Life Science / Biotechnology / Health Care Hwang Claims to Have Cloned Pig Stem Cells Researchers at disgraced gene scientist Hwang Woo-suk's Sooam Biotech Research Center claimed they have for the first time created cloned pig embryos and used them to make embryonic stem-cel lines. Scientists have success- ful y extracted stem cells from cloned primate embryos, as described in a study on monkeys published in the peer- review journal, Nature, in 2007. However, this marks the first time that stem cells have been created from the cloned embryos of a pig, and the findings could contribute to developing techniques to extract stem cel s from cloned human embryos, Sooam officials said. Hyun Sang-hwan, Hwang's key colleague at Sooam, told The Korea Times that the study will be reported in Zygote, a peer-review journal published by Cambridge University, in two or three months. Hyun declined to comment on how many stem-cell lines were produced or the techniques used in the study, citing confidentiality.
Science & Technology News from the Republic of Korea
Wheat Extract Could Be Used to Combat Alzheimer’s Wheat, the main ingredient in everything from baguettes, doughnuts to three-minute instant noodles, could also be used for combating Alzheimer's disease, Korean scientists said. In a study published by peer-review journal, Phyto- therapy Research, Daegu Catholic University researcher Lee Jong-won and Daegu Haany University's Jang Jung- hee claimed that water extract of wheat could possibly be used to develop treatments and prevent Alzheimer's, as it suppresses the role of beta amyloid in the brain. Beta amyloid is a protein that is considered the building block of Alzheimer's. These newly found functions of wheat extract also open possibilities for use in developing more efficient treatments for memory improvement, according to the authors. “Aricept and a number of other drugs produce short- term improvements in memory loss and cognition in Alzheimer's patients, but side effects were an obvious problem,'' Lee said. “Drugs like Aricept is focused on improving memory assessment through brain cells that are alive, while wheat extract works by preventing brain cel s from dying, which would make them complementary to existing treat- ments and drugs and provide a synergy effect.“ Safety Debate Heats Up on Stem Cell Cosmetics Biotech firms are up in arms against the move by health authorities to ban the use of materials derived from human stem cel s or organs for cosmetic use due to infection worries. The companies are hoping that beauty products will generate an early return on their lavish investments in stem cell technology, with the prospects for therapeutic appli- cations remaining murky and distant. However, the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA), which is pushing the ban, claims that the use of human tissues in the making of cosmetic products raises safety concerns, as the ma- terials could be contaminated with HIV, hepatitis and other infectious viruses and bacteria. The new regulations, which could be approved as early as July, wil remove cosmetics based on stem cells extracted from human fat from the shelves. About four to five local biotech firms, including RNL Bio, Stem Medience and Prostemics, officially sub- mitted letters opposing the KFDA proposal, government sources said. Currently, stem cel cosmetic products in stores or under development use fat tissues sourced from hospitals, mostly those left from liposuction surgery at cosmetic clinics. All-in-One Nano Agent to Combat Tumor Scientists have fitted nano-sized particles with imaging agents, RNA fragments and a special peptide that enables an all-in-one solution to detect, target and disable tumor cells. In a study published by peer-review journal, Angewandte Chemie, Park Tae-gwan of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Cheon Jin-woo of Yonsei University claimed that the nano particles also make tumor cel s macroscopically visible, which may open new opportunities in the detection of cancer and drug development. “We are currently studying whether the nano particles could be used for treatment in the human body,'' Park said. “If the nano particles, following animal tests, are cleared for clinical tests, we could be opening a new era in the treatment of cancer.' The researchers attached mag- netic iron oxide particles with a fluorescence dye, siRNAs (small interfering RNAs) and a short peptide called RGD, which ``sniffs'' out the cancer cel s. The magnetic particles act as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the fluorescence dye allows for the microscopic imaging of the targeted tumor cells. 3. Information & Communications Technology Broadcasting equipment makers will get subsidies
Preparing for the switch to digital broadcasting in 2012, when all analog TV signals will be terminated, the govern- ment wil invest 546 billion won ($433.7 million) over the next five years to build up the local broadcast equipment industry. “We intend to change the notion that locally-made broadcasting equipment is lower quality,” said the Minis- try of Knowledge Economy on May 28th in a formal statement. Around 180 billion won out of the total sum will go to strengthen cooperative ties between equipment manufacturers and broadcasters, including TV stations and Internet broadcasters. At President Lee Myung-bak’s weekly emergency economic meeting, the Knowledge Economy Minis- try and the Korea Communications Commission submitted the plan, which they said would boost Korea’s share of the global broadcast equipment market. As of 2008, that market is worth around $59.4 billion - bigger than semicon- ductors ($48.4 billion) and displays ($55.0 billion). Seoul hopes the new spending will raise domestic production to around $1.5 billion and exports to $1.4 billion. Korea’s global market share for broadcast equipment was around 1.1 percent last year, with exports of $362 million. The plan is intended to raise that to around 5 percent by 2015.
Science & Technology News from the Republic of Korea
Samsung LCD-TV wins prize Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest maker of liquid-crystal displays, said on May 19th that its LCD-TV has been awarded the highest prize by a leading global organization on electronic display technology. The company said the California-based Society for Information Display announced Samsung Electronics’ 240 hertz LCD-TV panel as the winner of the Display Device of the Year award. Samsung’s panel display updates pixel data 240 times per sec- ond, delivering the best Motion Picture Response Time performance ever achieved in mass-produced LCD panels, the organization said. “Samsung is honored to accept this prestigious award from SID. Homegrown WiBro gets exported to Middle East Korea-developed, fourth-generation, wireless Internet technology will launch in the Middle East for the first time later this month. SK Telesys, the SK Group’s mobile communication equipment unit, said on May 12th that it wil export $7 million worth of WiBro equipment including Web infrastructure to Jordan. With this, Jordan wireless telecommunica- tions company Kulacom Jordan will start WiBro service in the country’s capital, Amman, starting May 20. The com- pany also plans to provide various value-added services including voice over Internet protocol, Internet protocol TV and online games using WiBro to Bahrain and Turkey. “The Middle East is barren in telecommunications infrastruc- ture and Korean technology is being acknowledged there for its high quality. We plan to aggressively market in other areas as well,” said Park Hark-joon, head of SK Telesys. WiBro is expanding its market share in North America, Ja- pan and Southeast Asia. U.S.-based Clearwire Corp. started providing WiBro service to the eastern part of the U.S. last September, after buying related supplies from Samsung Electronics. The company plans to provide WiBro to 80 U.S. cities by 2010. Also, KT is providing WiBro service to Uzbekistan. New IPTV services set to arrive Internet protocol television began in Korea early this year with high expectations from the government and operating companies, but the public response has so far been less than favorable. To popularize the service, the Korea Com- munications Commission announced a plan to provide additional public services through IPTV this year. The KCC said that they have created consortiums for KT, LG Dacom and SK Broadband - Korea’s three IPTV operators - to carry out the services. LG Dacom’s consortium is developing a medical counseling service in which patients, espe- cially elderly citizens who can’t walk around freely, can get one-on-one counseling on their specific medical condition. Users can also get general information on hospitals, diseases and treatments. The service is slated to start in No- vember this year. KT’s consortium is in charge of developing a military IPTV service by August in which military offi- cers will be able to have video visits with family and friends using IPTV. They will also develop a home shopping ser- vice for agricultural produce in which users can buy directly from farms via IPTV. The SK Broadband consortium is developing travel services on Internet TV, al owing users to get travel information from the Korea Tourism Organiza- tion and exchange information. Seoul looks to IT to power green growth
The government yesterday announced plans to invest 4.2 trillion won ($3.4 billion) by 2013 in information technologies in order to save energy and reduce carbon emissions. The Presidential Committee for Green Growth also said the government would spend 8.4 trillion won by 2012 in developing and commercializing key environmentally friendly technologies from hybrid cars to renewable energies. The committee announced two major technological action plans to promote President Lee Myung-bak's green growth initiative. The first involves nine projects developing IT products, services and infrastructure for a low-carbon econ- omy and way of life. It includes three projects for the development of advanced computers, displays and servers, build internet networks that are 10 times faster and improve server capability at internet data centers. The panel also envisioned plans for the utilization of IT solutions in schools, offices, hospitals and homes that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also push for IT- based intelligent infrastructure for power transmission, logistics, transformation and disaster prevention. The government will spend 4.2 trillion won in the Green IT National Strategy by 2013. The projects would generate 7.5 trillion won in production, cre- ate 52,000 jobs and reduce 1.8 million tons of carbon emissions by that year, the committee estimated. The second plan in- volves funding the development of 27 core green technologies broken down into three categories in terms of Korea's potential market capability and technological sophistication level. For short-term intensive development, it picked silicon-based solar bat- teries, LPG hybrid vehicles, highly efficient light emitting diodes and advanced electricity metering system. The nation aims to secure a leading position in the global market in those areas. As mid-term development sectors, the government will promote fuel cells, electric cars and rechargeable batteries. In non-silicon solar batteries and bio-energy, the government aims to secure source technologies through long-term investments. The government will earmark 8.4 trillion won to fund the projects by 2012.
Science & Technology News from the Republic of Korea
4. Energy / Environment
Korea's first tidal power plant built in Uldolmok, Jindo
A marine energy development project led by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is finally bearing fruit. The project is to build the Korea's first tidal power plant in Uldolmok, Jindo, which will help achieve low carbon green growth (including CO2 gas reduction) and create a future growth engine. Despite difficulties during construc- tion for the last four years, the plant was finally completed on May 14. The project for the construction of Jindo Ul- dolmok tidal power plant was initiated in 2005 to prepare for a compulsory obligation of reducing green house gas emissions under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and to put eco-friendly marine energy tech- nologies to practical use. The plant will produce 2.4GWh of electricity through 1000 kW of tidal power generation as the first step, which will be supplied to about 430 households annually. By 2013, it will have up to 90 thousand kW of capacity, which is capable of supplying electricity to about 46 thousand houses, as the largest tidal power plant in Korea. More importantly, Jindo Uldolmok tidal power plant is significant since al related technologies were devel- oped in Korea. S. Korean firm wins deal for Greek research reactor upgrade (Yonhap News agency of 15 05 2009) South Korea's state-run power engineering company said on May 15th that it has signed a 1.5 billion won (US$1.2 million) deal to upgrade a nuclear research reactor in Greece. The project aims to improve the capability of the 5 megawatt GRR-1 reactor operated by NCSR Demokritos, Korea Power Engineering Co. (KOPEC) said. Upgrade work on the GRR-1, built in 1960, wil involve the removal of the primary cooling system and boosting power output to 10 megawatts. GS Caltex starts work on carbon material plant (Yonhap News agency of 19 05 2009)
GS Caltex Co., South Korea's second-largest refiner, said on May 19th that it has broken ground for a plant to pro-duce carbon materials for high-end energy storage devices in the country's southeast. GS Caltex signed a formal deal with Nippon Oil Corp., Japan's top oil company, in January to set up a 50-50 joint venture called Power Carbon Technology to produce the carbon materials.
5. Education Korea University, Yonsei Seek Pharmacy College Two of the nation's most prestigious universities have revealed plans to open pharmacy schools. And the institutions ― Korea University (KU) and Yonsei University ― could work together to turn them into a reality, according to a Yonsei senior official. KU President Lee Ki-su said his institution wants to establish a school on its Seoul campus, earmarking a 2011 start for recruitment. “We'll establish a pharmacy col ege so that we can have a new academic field of `bio medical' science, connecting life science, medicine and pharmacology,' Lee said in a forum held by Kwanhun Club, a senior journalists' group, at Korea Press Center in Seoul on May 6th. Yonsei President Kim Han-joong also said his university is considering forming a pharmacy school on its Songdo campus in Incheon in order to strengthen its global competitiveness in the medical service industry. More Incentives Planned for Foreign Students
In a move to attract more foreign students, more classes wil be taught in English and more accommodation facilities will be available for international students. Information about educational opportunities here will be more readily available, not only in English, but also in other languages through various state-administered Web sites. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance also said that more local universities wil be encouraged to establish an exchange program with their counterparts abroad to bring a greater number of international students into the country. The government also plans to implement a more aggressive overseas promotion campaign to upgrade Korea's image as a more for-eigner-friendly education center. “Over the years, more foreign students came and studied here but compared to ad-vanced countries, the number is still minimal. We need to do a lot more to attract non-Korean students,'' the ministry said. Only 0.7 percent of university students are foreign nationals, substantially lower than the 20.3 percent in Aus-tralia and 3.2 percent in Japan. The plan is in line with the nation's ongoing campaign to upgrade national branding. Under the Global Korea Scholarship project, one of 10 major projects to designed to hike the image of Korea, more non-Korean students will be given scholarships. The Presidential Council on Nation Branding said attracting more foreign students to Korea would contribute to polishing the nation's image.
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