(News Focus) Creative economy fair opens featuring latest technology products
By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- Nearly 2,400 government institutions and companies presented the latest technology and products that center on President Park Geun-hye's "creative economy" drive on Thursday amid a widening influence-peddling scandal surrounding the president and her confidante.
The "2016 Creative Economy Exhibition" kicked off at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in southern Seoul for a four-day run. The event, the fourth of its kind, is hosted by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.
A visitor to the "2016 Creative Economy Exhibition" enjoys a VR ride at COEX in Seoul on Dec. 1, 2016. (Yonhap)
The ministry said this year's event is the biggest of its kind as a record number of 1,687 government institutions gathered to promote the country's creative economy policies. A total of 718 local firms, including startups, were also invited to share their achievements in the technology realm.
Since taking office in 2013, Park has pushed forward the "creative economy" policy by aiming to merge different industrial sectors, mostly with information and communications technologies, to generate new business opportunities and foster the growth of startups.
However, her centerpiece policy came under crisis due to the snowballing scandal involving Choi Soon-sil, as prosecutors allege that she had intervened in state affairs and personally benefited by using her friendship with President Park.
There have been mounting suspicions that Choi even spearheaded many of Park's policies, including the creative economy policy. The ministry denies the allegations.
"The exhibition was prepared with more effort as there are mounting concerns," said Koh Kyeong-mo, an ICT ministry official, adding that this event would actually help many local firms.
Booths cover the floor space of the "2016 Creative Economy Exhibition" at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) on Dec. 1, 2016. (Yonhap)
In an effort to present how far the paradigm has shifted in the past four years, 13 government ministries and agencies worked together to organize the event, the ministry said.
An exhibition hall was presented in five different themes, including the one where 40 startups presented their latest products and technology that show how the latest IT is now incorporated into everyday lives. The startup firms all got help from "creative economy innovation centers" in 17 locations across the country.
To push for the initiative, the central government, in cooperation with provincial governments, has established the centers to match up local startups and venture firms with conglomerates. The centers have also provided various kinds of support for aspiring entrepreneurs both at home and abroad.
Virtualive, which started with the help of the creative economy center in Gyoneggi Province, introduced a hair solution system called "Hair Fit."
The application creates a virtual hairstyle customized to each person and displays a photo of the virtual hairstyle based on the customized data.
"The product was developed so that customers can experience a virtual hairstyle before actually getting a new style," said Lee Jae-yoel, adding that the company used a technology called a live motion engine that creates virtual hairstyles looking very natural.
The company said it is currently in discussion with foreign firms to export its product, adding that it has inked partnerships with major hair salons in the country.
Another startup company, August 10, introduced a beauty mask based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology that greatly enhances cosmetics to be absorbed.
Noticeably, the Secret 810 Mask has an IoT interface and can be connected with existing information technology systems and other IT devices such as smartphones and PCs. It evaluates a person's skin status based on Big Data.
The IoT is a network of physical objects, including vehicles, buildings and electronic devices, connected to the Internet to exchange data. It allows such objects to be sensed and controlled remotely.
The company, which aims to enter the global market with the help of the center in Sejong, said creative centers are crucial for startups which desperately need finance and guidance.
"It is a shame that there are rumors that the centers will be scrapped after this administration," said an August 10 official surnamed Choi.
Visitors look at a drone ready to make a delivery at the "2016 Creative Economy Exhibition" at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) on Dec. 1, 2016. (Yonhap)
Earlier, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said it plans to withdraw the budget for one of the 17 centers located in Seoul. The city government injected 1 billion won (US$854,000) into the center last year but said it plans to withdraw the 2 billion won allocated for this year.
Also, there are moves in the National Assembly to cut back the budget for the creative centers next year.
Earlier, the government announced that the budget allocated for creative economy innovation centers will be increased by 8.5 percent on-year to 607.2 billion won in 2017.
The ministry in charge of the innovation centers argues that the centers have no connection to the current scandal and are essential for venture firms.
"Visitors can experience creative economy business models here and understand how products and technology based on the creative economy are incorporated into everyday life," said Koh.
The ministry argues that the centers have offered various forms of support to 1,175 startups and 1,644 small and medium-sized enterprises, and have helped attract investments worth $256 million for these local firms.
Also, major conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics, set up their booths and presented the latest technology to catch up with the fast-paced industrial transformation dubbed the "fourth industrial revolution."
Naver Corp., the operator of South Korea's dominant Internet portal, set up a booth to introduce its latest translation application based on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Naver said "pappago" has been switched to a new system called Neural Machine Translation (NMT), an end-to-end learning framework that learns from millions of examples.
"The NMT system interprets entire sentences by understanding factors within the sentences," said Hong Kyong-pyo, a Naver official, adding that the system is much more accurate and smart.
The multilingual system is based on machine learning that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed, Naver said.
Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-largest carmaker, unveiled an autonomous concept car for commuters, the Soul First Class.
The event is open to the public and free of charge, the ministry said.
ICT Minister Choi Yang-hee experiences virtual reality gear at the "2016 Creative Economy Exhibition" at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) on Dec. 1, 2016. (Yonhap)