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OpenAI Chief Urges South Korea to Supply Chips for AI Boom

Sam Altman met with President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday to discuss chips needed for the new technology and urged Seoul to help create acceptable international standards for AI

AI expert Sam Altman has urged South Korea to focus on chips needed for the AI boom.
Sam Altman, CEO of Microsoft-backed OpenAI and ChatGPT creator. This Reuters image shows him speaking at Tel Aviv University in June 2023.


Artificial intelligence expert Sam Altman met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday and urged the country to focus on making chips for the new technology.

Altman, the head of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, also urged South Korea to play a leading role in creating acceptable international standards for artificial intelligence.

Altman – on a world tour meeting lawmakers and national leaders to discuss AI’s prospects and threats – has travelled this week to Israel, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, India and South Korea.

The CEO suggested South Korea should focus on chips as both system semiconductors and memory chips are needed for AI.

He also suggested reducing corporate regulations to foster AI projects, South Korea’s presidential office said.


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‘Pace of tech development is so fast’

“People are focused on not stifling innovation, and that any regulatory framework has got to make sure that the benefits of this technology come to the world,” Altman said earlier on Friday as he met with about 100 South Korean startups.

The rapid development and popularity of generative AI since Microsoft Corp-backed OpenAI launched ChatGPT last year is spurring lawmakers globally to formulate laws to address safety concerns linked to the technology.

The European Union is moving ahead with its draft AI Act, which is expected to become law this year, while the United States is leaning toward adapting existing laws for AI rather than creating new legislation.

“Because the pace of technology development is so fast, international standards to prevent side-effects associated with ChatGPT must also be prepared with speed,” Yoon told Altman, the presidential office said.

South Korea has new AI regulations awaiting full parliamentary approval. Seoul-based analysts said those rules are seen as less restrictive than the EU’s.

In February, a parliament committee passed an AI draft law that guarantees freedom to release AI products and services, and will only restrict them if regulators deem any product to be harming the lives, safety, and rights of people.


Specialised markets

South Korea is one of few countries that has developed its own foundation models for artificial intelligence in a field dominated by the United States and China, thanks to local tech companies such as Naver, Kakao, and LG.

The companies are seeking ways to tap niche or specialised markets that have not yet been addressed by big tech in the United States or China.

“In order for Korean companies to have strength in the global AI ecosystem, each company must first secure specialised technology for vertical AI,” or AI designed and optimised for specific uses, LG AI Research chief Kyunghoon Bae said.

Naver said it has been eager to develop localised AI applications for countries with political sensitivities in the Middle East as well as for non-English speaking countries and regions, such as Japan and Southeast Asia.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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