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(LEAD) S. Korea vows to nurture more than 10 AI unicorns

All News 11:45 January 11, 2019

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SEJONG, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Friday it will nurture more than 10 unicorns on artificial intelligence in an ambitious project to secure a new growth engine for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Lee Ho-seung, the first vice minister of economy and finance, made the announcement in a meeting with officials on innovation-led growth in Seoul.

Lee did not provide further details on how the goal would be achieved.

A unicorn company is a startup with a valuation of US$1 billion or more.

Currently, only six South Korean companies have reached unicorn status: Coupang, a top e-commerce company; video game maker Bluehole; Yello Mobile Inc., a mobile lifestyle platform provider; Woowa Brothers Corp., operator of the popular food delivery app Baedal Minjok; L&P Cosmetic Co., a leading facial skin care company; and Viva Republica, the operator of easy mobile remittance service Toss, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Lee also said the government will provide support to the "hydrogen economy" to ensure South Korea can maintain its technological edge.

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's biggest carmaker by sales, has become the world's first mass-producer of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

In September last year, Hyundai Motor signed an initial agreement with Swiss hydrogen company H2 Energy to provide 1,000 fuel cell electric trucks.

A hydrogen fuel cell electric car only emits water vapor as it converts stored hydrogen into electricity, which turns the vehicle's motor.

South Korea is set to increase the number of all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles to 430,000 units and 67,000 units, respectively, by 2020. It also said 2,000 hydrogen-powered buses are set to be supplied in a move to promote zero-emission vehicles.

Global carmakers have been racing to go eco-friendly amid tightened regulations on emissions of greenhouse gases that scientists say are to blame for global warming.

On Thursday, President Moon Jae-in said the government will spend 1.5 trillion won (US$1.3 billion) on data, artificial intelligence and the "hydrogen economy" to stimulate overall economic growth.


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