[Column]The era of semiconductor hegemony has opened, but Korea is like Korea before the Imjin War (2) | Joongang Ilbo | JoongAng Ilbo

ⓒ JoongAng Ilbo / JoongAng Ilbo Japanese version2022.12.26 11:28

On the other hand, Taiwan is strengthening its semiconductor alliance and solidarity with the Pacific powers, and at the same time building new semiconductor factories in the United States and Japan to protect its own security. On June 6, TSMC held a groundbreaking ceremony for a $12 billion semiconductor factory to be built in Arizona, USA. TMCS has also started construction of a plant in Kikuyo, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, at an investment of $8.6 billion. Japan, in solidarity with IBM of the United States and TSMC of Taiwan, is continuing bold and continuous investment to revive the semiconductor industry based on the competitiveness of materials, parts and equipment.

China’s semiconductor industry competitiveness is likely to be hit hard by the US ban on semiconductor equipment exports. It is expected that it will take a considerable period of time for China to regain its semiconductor competitiveness. For the time being, it is expected to rely on domestic demand in China, centering on low-performance processors and memory. It has embarked on a strategy to sustain itself with its own semiconductor market and strong government investment. The Chinese government is said to invest more than 1 trillion yuan (about 19 trillion yen) over five years in developing its own semiconductor industry.

As the war for semiconductor hegemony accelerates, South Korea must pursue its strategy more cautiously and clearly. The most important thing is to secure core dependence in the global semiconductor market. In other words, we must secure discriminatory technologies and products that cannot be found in competing countries. For example, it would be good if we could secure ultra-disparate technological competitiveness in high-performance semiconductor memory and have a technological advantage over companies in China, Japan, and the United States. This is because computers always need memory. We must develop ultra-fine and ultra-high-rise memories that are one step ahead.

Then chase the foundry industry under TSMC’s chin. A 3-nanometer GAA structure may be the answer. We will expand the market through differentiated technology, performance and services, as well as solidarity among global companies. This is where high-end packaging technology becomes a weapon. Opportunities for new industries are in the fields of materials, parts and equipment for high-end packaging.

◇ Requires a “computer architect” to design the system

Finally, foster the system semiconductor industry in the long term. To foster the system semiconductor industry, we need computer architects who can integrate algorithms, software, and hardware to design the entire system. Also, power semiconductors and in-vehicle semiconductor companies, which will determine the survival of the electric vehicle industry, should be nurtured. These products are essential semiconductors for space exploration and national defense. Semiconductor hegemony is expanding into space.

In order to achieve these goals, the Korean government should support the development of basic science and technology, create an investment environment for parent companies, and at the same time cultivate excellent semiconductor human resources. Legislation and funding must be enacted for this purpose. Companies start industries with the support of the government. Among these, the most necessary condition from the standpoint of a company is to secure the best semiconductor personnel. In particular, in order to win the competition with the United States, China, Taiwan, and Japan, we believe that at least 10,000 master’s and doctorate specialists are required in the fields of memory, foundries, system semiconductors, materials, parts, and equipment. Therefore, at least 10 new semiconductor departments and at least 10 new semiconductor graduate schools should be established in universities nationwide. Even if 1,000 of them are produced every year, there will be a large shortage compared to the demand for human resources. Training excellent human resources for semiconductors is not an option, but a necessity.

South Korea, which is attached to the edge of the East Asian continent, is geopolitically a peninsula, but it is a blessed maritime base that extends into the Pacific Ocean. It is a land where crisis and opportunity coexist. However, watching the so-called “K-CHIPS Law” (Semiconductor Special Law) pass the National Assembly last week, which was far behind the original bill, I could see the appearance of Joseon ahead of the Imjin War. Unfortunately, the Diet and government have no awareness of the importance, urgency, and historicity of the semiconductor industry.

Kim Jeong Ho / KAIST Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

[Column]The era of semiconductor hegemony has opened, but Korea is like Korea before the Imjin War (1)

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