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Technology Standardization
Taking the Lead in Fierce Race for International Standardization - Korea is concentrating its support on corporate standardization R&D to better foster international trade and pull down technical barriers
Technology Standardization
  • By matthew
  • July 30, 2012, 14:39
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Korea hosted a total of 11 international standardization conferences between May and June 2012, highlighting its significantly increased global standing in the field.

In particular, around 100 figures from 25 countries participated in the 35th Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC) meeting from June 4 to 8 in Yeosu City, South Jeolla Province to discuss mutual cooperation under the theme “Implementation of Environmental Sustainability Standards.” Specifically, they exchanged opinions on Asia-Pacific nations’ joint efforts to respond to Europe-centered global standardization and a variety of new policies with major agencies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Korea, as the chair country, held bilateral talks during the period with the United States, Japan, China and many other nations for closer collaboration in industries such as smart grid technology and electric vehicles.

In addition, a number of general meetings have taken place in Korea to cover the petroleum, software, service, environmental, electronics, and firefighting industries, etc. For example, the very first session of the IEC/TC 119 general assembly was held from May 22 to 23. The technical committee meeting was related to the fast-emerging, high-tech field of printed electronics. Furthermore, the 27th ISO/TC 28 (petroleum products and lubricant) and JTC1/SC7 (software engineering) meetings were convened on Jeju Island on May 1 and between May 19 and 25, respectively. From May 21 to 24, the ISO/TC 249 (traditional Chinese medicine) was held in Daejeon City, while the ISO/TC 228 (tourism service) was held in Seoul between May 20 and 25.

These were followed by a series of conferences in June. ISO/TC 94/SC 14 (personal protection equipment for firefighters) took place in Incheon City, and was attended by approximately 40 industry experts, as well as active-duty firefighters from 12 countries, including Australia, Canada, the UK, Japan and the US.

Budget for Standardization Far from Adequate

Nevertheless, many people are pointing out that Korea still has a long way to go in regards to the groundwork for standardization, adding that the government has to secure more budgetary resources and formulate more well-organized policies. According to these people, the budget is far from enough, although standardization is indeed included in the government’s major policy plans.

Last month, the National Science & Technology Commission announced the National R&D Strategy in the FTA Era in tandem with 16 other ministries and government departments. The foremost goal of which is to deal effectively with technical barriers to trade, or TBT, by obtaining international standards in advance. “We’ll strive to lead global standardization by securing innovative original technologies and shoring up our own presence in international bodies by having more high-ranking figures assigned to top positions,” the government said.

The OECD, in the meantime, has predicted that technical standards, a type of non-tariff barrier, will become one of the most important international industrial norms, with 80% of global trade being subject to them, and rapidly expanding free trade agreements breaking down tariff walls. To deal with this, the standardization R&D budgets should be boosted so that the source technologies that Korea owns can become international standards. The government’s R&D budget for this year amounts to 16.022 trillion won, yet only 30.5 billion, or 0.2% of this, is allotted for the development of original standards.

At the same time, more ministries and national agencies need to exert themselves. Currently, some are carrying out R&D projects in connection with standardization, e.g. the Knowledge Economy Ministry’s Industrial Convergence Source Technology Development. However, these are not enough. Furthermore, there are more than a few government departments with no R&D policy associated with the objective at all.

Unified Standardization Governance Urgent for ICT Convergence

As the impact of IT convergence on overall industries rises, the current dualistic standardization governance is increasingly becoming a target of criticism. Up to now, the Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) and the International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) have mixed with each other like oil and water. The former is an organization for information technology standardization that began from the electronic and electrical industry, whereas the latter has more to do with information and communication. This inherent difference in background has led to a competing relationship. The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) under the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) are registered as the two representative agencies.

However, the rising significance of IT convergence and international standards is changing the situation. The International Standards Collaboration of Korea (ISCoK) has been established for information exchange and cooperation between JCT1 and ITU-T, creating a new model of mutual endeavor and redressing repetitive work between them. Examples of the collaboration include green ICT, future Internet and machine-to-machine (M2M). With the two domestic agencies successfully inducing cooperation on the international level, expectations that Korea will seize the initiative in the global ICT convergence field are rising.

However, it is also true that such commitment is currently rather restricted, simply following industrial demands in some limited sectors. This by no means guarantees global leadership. Since standardization with regards to IT convergence is emerging as a key issue both at home and overseas, there should be a pan-governmental umbrella organization to supervise everything about the standardization governance system.

“KATS governs IT standardization, while the KCC has the final say in the communications technology sector,” said Seo Kwang-hyun, administrator of KATS. He added, “The current two-way governance framework will have to be unified as soon as possible in order to keep abreast of global trends and further enhance our competitiveness in the arena. I’m actually pretty positive about the likelihood of integration.”

Financial Support for Development of Standard Technology

Recently, KATS selected and announced 74 new projects to receive its standardization R&D support. They are divided into 23 for international standard registration, 31 for standard R&D, and 20 to establish a foundation for standardization. Its backup revolves around high, value-added convergence technologies such as printed electronics, 3D human factor, stem cell treatment, electric vehicles, and software platform development. The idea is to enhance national and corporate competitiveness in a bid to speed up the achievement of US$2 trillion in exports.

In this context, KATS selected 40 innovative technologies considered to have had a large economic impact and contributed to the improvement of the nation’s competitive edge, and conferred the New Excellent Technology (NET) Certificate on them in April.

Standards Coordinators Appointed to Offer TBT-related Consulting

Furthermore, the government has nurtured standards coordinators (SCs), whose role is to help local companies attain more global standards. These experts are appointed by the government to suggest standard-related tasks and manage national and international standardization efforts.

More recently, the first SCs have been named in the smart grid, smart logistics and printed electronics sectors, expanding the group to seven experts in seven fields. All of the others in the remaining four segments -- 3D industry, smart media, smart medical information and cloud computing – are serving consecutive terms.

KATS will also provide one-on-one advisory services to small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) so that they can better understand and cope with standardization trends. To this end, the agency has turned the SC position into a full-time job, as well as given these individuals greater responsibility. KATS expects these SCs will prevent duplicate investment and the wasting of expenses, while also offering effective assistance in a timely manner. Additionally, the institute has supplied TBT experts since April to export-centered SMEs experiencing difficulties with overseas technical regulations.

“International standardization matters more than anything else for the national R&D outcomes worth 16 trillion won to lead well to industrial application and for our technologies and products to be able to sweep the global market,” said administrator Seo, adding, “I anticipate that the SCs will do their job as consultants and advisors successfully, allowing Korean SMEs to sharpen their competitive edge through the standardization of their original technologies.”