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Lagging behind China

Dec 27,2017
The scene of President Moon Jae-in dining at a local restaurant with the first lady, the Korean ambassador to China and his wife during his state visit to Beijing made headline news. The Blue House called it Moon’s way of reaching out to the Chinese people, while his critics and the media raised questions about Beijing’s civility of making a state leader dine alone during an official stay.

The real purpose of the event remains unclear, but what was evident was the expression of awe President Moon showed at the proliferation of digitalization and mobile services in China.

Moon and his company paid for their breakfast using the common payment system in China — mobile pay. The bill shows a QR code that appears on the table and the payment is made in a second without having to go to the counter. The scene of Moon being intrigued by the fast pay system should be a lesson for Koreans. We may not catch up with China in its space technology, but we must at least not get behind it in IT technology.

Korea is the dominant supplier of memory chips, and yet lags behind in readiness for the fourth industrial revolution. The reason is obvious. A recent report by the Korea Information Society Development Institute underscored how Korean innovations get stalled and killed by outdated regulations. A mobile diabetes care phone was released in 2004, but it is not available in Korea because of local regulation on medical equipment. Telemedicine goes against domestic pharmaceutical regulations. An app-based taximeter also is illegal for common cabs. Room or home sharing is allowed for foreigners but unlicensed for domestic nationals.

The same goes for online used car trade platforms and robotic advisory services. We must remove the regulations first and then make amendments if side effects arise, as China has done. If not, our services standard would be so underdeveloped that the Chinese would come to Korea for cheap foot massages as we did about a decade ago.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 34