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CES 2021: Tasks for Korean Industries in a Digitally-Transformed World

Author Shim, Woo Jung; Kwon, Ohsung; Kim, Jongki Date 2021.02.26 Issue No 104
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CES 2021, an annual consumer electronics exposition, featured innovative products for the “changed-everyday” that is expected to characterize the post-COVID-19 world. Such products demonstrate that the so-called “digital transformation” is already well underway.

AI is now a mandatory foundational technology across industries. Innovation is particularly visible in AI and 5G-based areas, including “home-conomy” (home + economy), bio-health, and eco-friendly technologies.


▣ Korean Innovation Outcomes

Korea received more innovation awards this year than it did in 2020. However, Small and Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs) received relatively few awards.

Korea received more than one-quarter (26.4 percent) of all awards given, a proportion higher than the 21.8 percent Korea received in 2020. However, SMEs accounted for fewer awards than in 2020.

Of the 45 total awards Korea received in the Health & Wellness category, SMEs received 10, a relatively large number. However, the majority of these awards were for wellness and beauty products rather than for applications such as remote medical care (telehealth).


▣ Threats

Two factors threaten Korea’s digital transformation: 1) a lack of AI capabilities and 2) systemic rigidity in bio-health.

Korea maintains the lead in 5G and IT manufacturing. However, this lead is jeopardized by vulnerabilities in the country’s AI technologies and platform-related capabilities as well as by excessive regulatory control over remote medical care.


▣ Policy Recommendations

In order to dominate the convergence-based new product and services market and gain a competitive edge in the current era of digital transformation, Korea must develop innovative strategies, take bold steps, and never hesitate to break the mold.

The following measures are necessary: promote an open innovation industrial environment, address industry weaknesses via mergers and acquisitions (M&A), develop core technologies based on expected future demand, strategically strengthen platform capabilities, and undertake systemic reform to create an industrial environment conducive to the digital transformation.?