The Korea Herald


CES attendants pick S. Korea as top-tier innovator, next to US

By Bae Hyunjung

Published : March 29, 2021 - 16:36

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(CES 2021) (CES 2021)

Those attending the Consumer Electronics Show this year received the impression that South Korea is one of the most innovative players in the world, standing next to the US and outrunning Germany and Japan.

Autonomous driving was picked as the most promising business sector, while LG was seen as operating the most impressive booth, unveiling new products such as rollable phones.

According to a survey conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries on 80 Korean companies that participated in CES 2021, 82.5 percent of respondents said that the US is the most innovative country. Asia’s fourth-largest economy came next, with 8.8 percent, followed by Germany and Japan with 2.5 percent each.

The survey took place via email and phone from Jan. 19 to March 5 with 147 Korean companies, of which 54.4 percent responded.

Of the 80 who responded, health care firms accounted for 36.3 percent, while internet of things firms and artificial intelligence developers accounted for 15 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.

It was in the drone sector that respondents saw the widest gap between the US and Korea. In the smart city area, on the other hand, Korea was seen to be almost neck-and-neck with the US.

Those who recognized Korea’s innovation cited the country’s advanced IT environment and quality human resources as the top reasons. The fast-paced business culture and active investment in the private sector were also seen as contributing factors.

The reason that China ended up relatively low in the innovation survey was because a number of leading Chinese IT players, including Huawei, boycotted the event amid the US-China trade conflict, according to the FKI.

The number of Chinese participants at CES was 205 this year, nose-diving from 1,368 a year earlier.

In terms of business sectors, 28 percent of respondents said that autonomous driving is most promising, followed by artificial intelligence, IoT and health care.

The booth to receive the most heated response from the audience was that of LG, largely due to the unveiling of its rollable mobile phone.

Respondents also pointed out that excessive regulations in new growth sectors poses the largest hurdle in performing business in Korea, along with the lack of legal support and of professional human resources.

“The rigid regulatory frame makes it difficult to reflect the fast-changing market reality in business models,” said Kim Bong-man, director of international cooperation at the FKI.

“The government needs to sustain a long-term approach toward innovation and expand its administrative and fiscal support for promising businesses.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (