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Industry watchers say South Korea’s dominance of the memory chip market and strong AI ecosystem give it an edge in the global AI chip race.

“South Korea is very strong in memory chips. Artificial intelligence does require a lot of memory. South Korea’s dominance in the memory market is definitely an advantage,” said James Lim, senior research analyst at Dalton Investments.

South Korea aims to become one of the world’s top three AI powerhouses by 2027, after the United States and China.digital strategy“.

The country “aims to maintain its leading position in memory semiconductors,” Jong-ho Lee, the country’s minister of science, information and communications technology, told CNBC.

“South Korea seeks to become an important player in fast-growing and promising fields such as artificial intelligence semiconductors,” Lee said.

Large-scale language models such as ChatGPT, which have led to an explosion in global AI adoption in recent months, increasingly require high-performance memory chips. Such chips enable generative AI models to remember details of past conversations and user preferences in order to generate human-like responses.

Korean startup says our AI chip is optimized for AI computing

Generative artificial intelligence is a type of artificial intelligence that can generate text, images, code, and more.

“In order to use artificial intelligence, including very large language models, a large number of semiconductor chips are required to run, and global companies are competing fiercely to create high-performance and low-power AI semiconductors optimized for AI computing,” Li said.

Chip giants Samsung, SK Hynix

South Korean companies Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, two of the world’s largest makers of DRAM chips, have been investing aggressively in artificial intelligence research and development to enhance their capabilities.

Samsung said in March it planned to invest 300 trillion won ($228 billion) A new semiconductor factory in South Korea.

Dylan Patel of research and advisory firm SemiAnalysis told CNBC last month that Samsung is “spending, spending, spending.” “Why is that? So they can catch up with technology so they can continue to stay ahead.”

We will spare no effort to use our memory semiconductor capabilities to promote the development of AI semiconductors and help Korea acquire world-class AI semiconductor technology…

Li Zhenghao

minister of science and information and communication technology

Data from research firm TrendForce It shows that in the fourth quarter of 2022, Samsung’s market share is 40.7%, SK Hynix’s is 28.8%, followed by Micron, ranking third with 26.4%.

“South Korea has a strong local AI ecosystem that can compete with global tech giants,” said Sung Nako, head of large-scale AI development at Korean internet giant Naver.

Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, urged South Korea to dominate AI chip production when he met South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in June. Altman has also expressed interest in investing in South Korean start-ups and working with major chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics.

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“U.S. chip giant Nvidia, Intel – They are not in the memory business. They don’t have any exposure in the memory field,” Dalton’s Lim said, adding that would give South Korea an advantage.

Samsung is a supplier of high-bandwidth memory chips Nvidiawhich fits into the US chipmaker’s latest A100 graphics processing unit for training ChatGPT.

Geoffrey Cain, author of the 2020 book “The Rise of Samsung,” told CNBC last month that he thinks Samsung “will go much deeper into logic chips. So AI chips are semiconductor technology.” future applications.”

an “upper hand”

The South Korean government is investing heavily in artificial intelligence.

In 2022, MSIT says it will deploy 1.02 trillion won ($786 million) for AI semiconductor R&D The next five years.

Li told CNBC: “AI not only promotes the development of digital industries such as cloud computing and metaverse, but is also a key factor in greatly improving the productivity of traditional industries such as manufacturing and logistics.”

“With the application of artificial intelligence in various fields, a larger economic ripple effect can now be foreseen,” he said.

South Korea will also 826.2 billion won allocated until 2030 Building high-end chips through new data centers and working with startups.

exist Press releases from last month“The economic and industrial value of AI semiconductors will continue to increase, and South Korea has the upper hand in memory chips (sector) and foundry.”

“We will spare no effort to help South Korea acquire world-class AI semiconductor technology, leverage our memory semiconductor capabilities, advance AI semiconductors in stages by 2030, develop more technologies to apply them in data centers, and cultivate Artificial Intelligence Semiconductor Expert.” Released.

Investors showing 'strong interest' in backing South Korean AI startups, VC firm says

In an attempt to challenge the US chip giants, South Korean AI chip design startup Rebellions claims its new chip surpasses performance standards, more than three times better than Nvidia’s equivalent GPU.

“In terms of AI workloads, we have better energy efficiency, cost efficiency … sometimes better performance,” Rebellions co-founder and CEO Park Sung-hyun told CNBC in May.

rebellion is Reported race to win government contracts Seoul aims to support local businesses.

JP Lee, CEO and Managing Director, said: “Thanks to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, I’ve seen a lot of founders starting companies in the region, and a lot of investors who, with the backing of the government, have shown a lot of interest in backing these startups. strong interest.” Partner at SoftBank Ventures Asia and host of CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

— CNBC’s Katie Tarasov contributed to this report.

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