Interview: Korea hopes to present 5G options in two short years

Aivar Pau
, tech journalist
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In merely two years the global e-leader South Korea hopes to be the world's first to equip people with G5 technology and the rapid digital growth may be key to reunification of Koreas in our lifetime, interior minister Jong Sup Chong says in brief interview to Postimees tech portal while visiting Tallinn. 

-Far from world’s largest by population, Korea by UN data has for years stayed the global leader in e-development; you are producing smartphones with biggest chunks of global market share; you have Samsung, LG, Hyundai... Which, in your estimation, are these pragmatic reasons that led you to that – is it an innovation-supporting tax system, a business-friendly economic environment, the Korean mindset?

We are really working hard in order to make the tax system and economic environment as business-friendly as we can. But these two are not the main reasons for Korea’s rapid economic development. The key to fast economic growth have still been the company managers and owners – their business decisions in adopting new options. They have been very swift in embracing the changing conditions and adapting to these. The exact same goes to all the people in Korea.

-These past years, Korea has made waves with its Government 3.0 project. We do not know too much about your e-state. How, for instance, does the Korean people do their taxes?

The project Government 3.0 is the absolute priority of the Korean government – we wish to create a real people’s government which today also means a digitally and effectively functioning government. The focus of the project is towards the communication between the various institutions, towards the execution of the so-called free data and open government concept. As a result of this, the state government must become increasingly transparent for Korean people.

For instance, we have set it as our aim to broadly answer within two-three days to all policy amendment proposals and questions; with issues of deeper topics during seven days. This environment is also a means for people to participate in policy shaping process and once the laws have been passed, it is also a place of accountability. The government and the people must take steps hand in hand.

But when it comes to things like paying the taxes, the Koreans also see in the web prefilled tax declarations and there they can declare their income. It is enough if they correct data as needed, and then confirm it. Or take the births: already during pregnancy, the state over the web offers an overview of all available services and options after the child is born. The same goes for relatives leaving this world – in one web environment, all formalities can be settled. Thus, we offer the citizens information about relevant services before they ever need it.

By now we have been pulling the Government 3.0 project for three years since the new government entered into office, and this continues to be the most important innovation project for the Korean government.  

-In the broader sense we feel and see how rapidly the world around us is changing. Clearly, Korea is also on top of the world with production and exports of communication technologies. Which are the technologies and solutions we will see in near future, as observed by Korea?

As you also see in Estonia, we are living in an environment that is changing very rapidly and it is difficult to predict which will be the next so-called Big Thing in the next ten years. Definitely, the keyword is information technology being combined with other technologies.

When it comes to communication technologies, then like in various places in the world, Korea is still using 4G-technology at the moment but even now we are seeing it may not be as fast as the people desire. Naturally, we do not yet know today exactly which options and how fast an internet the 5G technology will offer. But I can tell you today that it is our serious plan to come out with initial 5G services in February 2018 during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. For that, we have launched a pilot project.

-Nothing doing – as we view the world map, it still has the two Koreas.... One a global leader in innovation and tech, and the other a most closed society with nothing much to say about its progress and developments. How would you describe the current situation with the touch-points of these two societies, and the perspectives?  

To begin with, let me introduce the situation of the Korean society as a whole. Looking back in time, while there was little communication technology, our options were limited in time and space. Now we are living in the digital age of developed information and communication technology. All that offers both people and governments enhanced and new opportunities.

The South Korean government’s attitude is this: we are always open towards North Korea and are ready to talk to them whenever they wish to talk to us. We stand ready to help them at any moment should they need our support. Therefore, I hope that in near future already positive changes will happen between the two Koreas.

We can imagine the opportunities that will open up if the two would unite. The Korean population would grow from 50 million to 70 million, all the tensions between the two Koreas would disappear – with a larger population and territory, the Korean digital society would double.

-How do you personally feel: will our eyes see the reunified Korea?

This is our hope.

For a background

With no regular information and communication technology between Estonia and Korea up to now, last week featured a first major official visit to Estonia by Korean IT-managers.  

By third quarter this year, Samsun was world leading smartphone producer with 23.5 percent of market share. July to September, they sold 84.5 million phones.

The national e-strategy «Government 3.0» consists of broad-based availability of open data, data analysis development in governmental sector and the wider economy such as state Big Data centre for sharing infrastructure, taking services to mobile platform.

Probably a most developed nations regarding communication infrastructure and availability of fast mobile internet. Regarding 5G mobile data communication technology, its standards are only being agreed in the world and its broad use is only expected in 2020.

Examples of South Korean e-services:

* Electronic customs formulation – UNI-PASS

Covers basically all customs procedures from declarations to electronic payment of export and import fees.

* Online patent system – KiPOnet

All related services such as filing applications and monitoring their progress.

* Digital state budget and accounting system – dBrain  

All governmental financial activities viewable real-time including budget planning, its fulfilment, and management of funds and assets

* Natural disasters management system – NDMS

Monitoring and management of various types of catastrophes in cooperation with 119-service.

* Immigration control system

Allows advance analysis of background of those desiring entry. The system has significantly cut attempts to enter with faked passport, national security is up.

* e-Public procurements system – KONEPS

All procurements to be performed and monitored  in one environment

* Electronic tax management system – Hometax  

Just like in Estonia

* Postal logistics system – PostNet

The entire procedure to be administrated and monitored

* Participation portal  -ePeople

Allowing citizens to participate in state decision processes including file complaints and proposals, take part in political debates