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(3rd LD) Park attends ceremony celebrating construction of synchrotron radiation facility

All News 17:17 September 29, 2016

(ATTN: CHANGES photo; ADDS more info in paras 19, 24)
By Song Sang-ho

POHANG, South Korea, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye attended a ceremony to mark the establishment of a facility for a powerful light source in the southern port city of Pohang on Thursday, offering her encouragement to researchers and construction workers.

The fourth-generation "synchrotron radiation" facility in the city, some 360 kilometers southeast of Seoul, is expected to pave the way for enhanced research on medical treatments, new drugs, artificial synthesis and new materials among others, experts said.

Seoul officials said the new facility, which is set to begin full-fledged operations in March, will not only improve various research activities but also help nurture new industries and reinvigorate the local economy.

The landmark facility creates a high-energy light source, 100 million times brighter and 1,000 times faster than the third-generation one, enabling researchers to better analyze ultrafine particles in real time.

During her congratulatory speech, Park touted the facility as a core part of the infrastructure required to get the upper hand in the increasingly fierce global competition to foster future industries. She also called it "the key to the secrets of space and life," highlighting the prospect of the facility being used in medical and aerospace sciences.

"I hope that the 'dream' light, which will be created in Pohang, will brighten not only the future of Korea’s science and technology, but also that of humankind," she said, noting that South Korea can capitalize on the facility to move a step ahead of others in many fields such as biotechnology, materials science, medicine and nanotechnology.

President Park Geun-hye speaks during a ceremony to mark the establishment of a fourth-generation synchrotron radiation facility in the southern port city of Pohang, some 360 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 29, 2016. (Yonhap)

The president also highlighted that the construction process demonstrates the future direction of the country's science and technology sectors, as she appreciated the close industry-academia cooperation in the facility’s development.

"Through the close industry-academia cooperation that involved researchers and some 300 companies, most core component parts have been developed locally, which helped slash development costs," she said.

"Such parts have also been exported to help foreign countries, such as the United States, Switzerland and India, construct their synchrotron radiation facilities."

Officials said 70 percent of the component parts were procured locally, which has helped save some 50 billion won (US$45 million).

The president, in addition, asked universities, research institutes and companies to keep developing innovative technologies and nurturing new industries, and help revitalize the provincial economy.

Touching on the intensifying competition in the era of the "fourth industrial revolution," Park stressed the need for the nation to focus on science and technology that will lead other nations rather than following them. The ongoing revolution refers to the fast-paced transformation linked to the fusion of various cutting-edge technologies such as big data.

"With the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution, future technologies such as electric cars, drones, robots and virtual reality are coming into our lives at a fast pace," she said.

"We are now in a situation where we cannot secure the future of our nation and companies if we fail to get the upper hand in the global competition."

Park also pledged to push for "bold reform" in the field of research and development to ensure the appropriate and efficient distribution of investment for new technologies and industries.

The construction of the facility began in April 2011 with a budget of 429.8 billion won.

With the construction completed, South Korea has become the third country after the United States and Japan to have such a state-of-the-art facility.

The Seoul government plans to provide 21.3 billion won next year to ensure the stable operations of the facility.

In the guestbook at the facility, Park wrote, "I hope Pohang's fourth-generation synchrotron radiation facility will become a lamp that will open the future of South Korea's cutting-edge science."

President Park Geun-hye (C) and other participants pledge allegiance during a ceremony celebrating the establishment of a fourth-generation synchrotron radiation facility in the southern port city of Pohang, some 360 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 29, 2016. (Yonhap)

After the congratulatory event, Park visited the creative economy innovation center in the port city, one of the 18 economic institutions that the government, in cooperation with provincial authorities and local businesses, has established across the nation since September 2014.

The institution serves as a pivotal platform to advance Park's much-trumpeted economic drive that aims to boost the economy by creating new business opportunities, industries and jobs through the fusion of cutting-edge technologies, culture and other available elements.

At the Pohang center, Park received briefings on the center's activities to support local businesses.

The center, which was established in January last year, has helped foster 76 startups, which have so far created jobs for 135 people and generated combined sales of 9.1 billion won. It has also supported some 250 small- and medium-sized firms for their technological innovation efforts.

Speaking with businesspeople at the center, Park expressed her hopes that a bill on setting up regulation-free zones will quickly pass through parliament to help develop future strategic businesses such as the materials industry.

President Park Geun-hye (R) visits a creative economy innovation center in the southern port city of Pohang, some 360 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 29, 2016. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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