The South Korean government is running a major research and development (R&D) project in the fifth generation display sector that surpasses organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), a fourth generation display technology. This means that a serious crisis signal is facing the Korean display industry. In fact, China already surpassed Korea in LCD production capacities in 2017. China is expected to take up 39% of world OLED production in 2020, closely trailing Korea, which is expected to account for 57% of global production.
The problem is that Korea's technology in the next generation display field such as foldable and rollable displays is still at the toddler stage. LG and Samsung have patents on so-called rollable display devices, but there are still a lot of hurdles to clear until mass production.
Moreover, as the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates, the use of displays is going beyond TVs and mobile phones to automobile windshields and textiles. The UK market research agency IHS forecasts that the global display market which stood at US$ 123.2 billion in 2017, will grow to US$ 301.1 billion in 2035.
This is why the government's "Display Innovation Promotion Group (tentative name)" which will be set up as early as September is aiming to secure commercialization technology for next-generation displays ahead of other matters. "When autonomous cars are commercialized, they will have displays that will nearly fill windshields from the right to the left side. But now the current level is cutting and attaching LCDs," said an official of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. “If we develop flexible display production technology, we will be able to preempt the new display market for displays for buildings and houses among others.”
Another task for the Korean display industry is to foster Korea’s material and equipment industries which are backward compared to those of developed countries. In the case of TFT-LCD depositors, Korean companies have a 24% market share which is less than half of Japan’s (56%). In the OLED sector, Korean companies have a 17% market share in polarizers only but have not recorded meaningful results in other items. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy believes that it is urgently needed to foster the Korean material and equipment industries so that Korean companies will be able to outclass Chinese companies closely trailing them by pruning production cost.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy expects this project to empower Korea to widen the display technology gap with China to more than three years.