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Yoon renews focus on AI, bio, quantum tech

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : April 22, 2024 - 15:33

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from right) enters the venue for the celebration of Telecommunication Day in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Monday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from right) enters the venue for the celebration of Telecommunication Day in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Monday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol said Monday that artificial intelligence, biotechnology and quantum technology constitute the three major pillars of South Korea's future economy, renewing his push for breakthroughs in research and development.

At a Telecommunication Day celebration held in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Yoon promised during his speech to make South Korea a "top 3 global science technology powerhouse" through massive investment and strategic cooperation with partners in the sectors of AI chips, cutting-edge biotechnology and quantum technology.

Yoon's pledge followed similar remarks he made during a Cabinet meeting on March 26, where he described AI, biotechnology and quantum technology as "game-changers" and vowed to invest more in their research.

Also in January, during his New Year's greetings with scientists and telecommunication specialists, Yoon promised to provide more budget support and tax relief for investment in the three sectors.

Korea celebrates the foundation of the first post office in Korea on April 22, 1884, and has designated April 22 as Telecommunication Day. The day follows Science Day on April 21, which marks the establishment of the precursor to the Ministry of Science and ICT in 1967. A national celebration for two days takes place every year.

According to Yoon's office, Yoon was the first Korean president to have attended the celebration since former President Park Geun-hye eight years ago.

At Monday's celebration, Yoon also pledged to carry out reforms on the feasibility analysis required before the launch of a research project, so that scientists involved in the research can "embark on the research in a timely manner." He also vowed to support researchers trailblazing scientific milestones, helping scientists here to embrace the "first-mover" spirit.

Yoon's remarks renewed his conservative administration's push to rejuvenate the national science research landscape, following its abrupt decision last year to cut the science research budget for 2024. The cut was aimed at achieving nationwide research reform to remove red tape and boost transparency in government-backed science projects, according to Yoon's office.

The decision to cut the budget by 14.7 percent to 26.5 trillion won ($19.2 billion) for 2024, seems to have worked against the ruling bloc in the recent April 10 general election.

Making matters worse, an incident occurred where a student protesting the budget cut at an event Yoon attended was dragged out with his mouth covered by presidential security. The incident happened when Yoon visited Daejeon, Korea's science hub, to deliver a commencement speech at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

In Daejeon, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea won all seven constituencies.