Korean ICT Minister Visits US And Discusses Technology Cooperation

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, both right, and Republic of Korea Minister of Science and ICT Jong Ho Lee, center left, along with their delegations, meet to discuss U.S.- Republic of Korea Civil Space Cooperation, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, at the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Korea will fortify its tech alliance with the United States in latest technologies, including those related to quantum technologies, space and small modular reactors (SMR), the Ministry of Science and ICT said Tuesday.

The announcement came after Minister of Science Lee Jong-ho met with the US science leaders in Washington D.C. on Monday, during his trip to the United States to watch the launch of Danuri, the domestically-developed lunar orbiter, on Friday.

The two countries will issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation on quantum technologies by the end of this year and a Korea-US Joint Committee on Science and Technology, also within the year.

Lee’s first meeting was with Alondra Nelson, the acting director of US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a US government department overseeing policies in science and tech.

Lee and Nelson agreed on the importance of economic security on key technologies and strengthening the “technology partnership between the two countries,” according to the ministry.

The MOU on quantum technologies will be announced in the coming months. Detailed information about the MOU is confidential for now, the ministry told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Minister Lee stressed the need for more cooperation on SMRs, a new type of nuclear power reactors that are said to be safer and cheaper than large-scale plants. Lee pushed for a new SMR unit to be established within a high-level commission on nuclear energy and also a new exchange program between experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The 11th Korea-US.Joint Committee on Science and Technology will be held this year to heed the opinions of experts from both the private sector and government institutions.

Nelson welcomed the recent investment announcements made by Samsung Electronics and SK hynix in the US chip market, according to the ministry.

Samsung Electronics submitted a long-term plan to invest a total of US$192 billion and build 11 chip-making plants in Texas over the next few decades last month. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won said last week the SK group will invest US$22 billion into manufacturing advanced memory chips, electric vehicle batteries and biopharmaceuticals in the United States through 2025.

Lee also met with heads of space science departments: Chirag Parikh, Executive Secretary of the National Space Council (NSpC) and Bill Nelson, the administer of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).

The meetings were held to discuss the details of the Korea-US Alliance announced last May during the summit, when items such as the Artemis Accords, a NASA-led lunar exploration project, and investing in the development of Korea’s satellite navigation system were brought to the table.

Lee asked Parikh for the US loosen its export control policies for Korea, because Korea cannot launch a lunar lander or certain satellites without US approval. Related parties are examining the item, the NSpC secretary said.

During the meeting with the NASA administrator, Lee asked for advice on establishing Korea’s own science and astronomy administration, which President Yoon Suk-yeol promised during the campaign. Nelson gave tips on running a government department on space science “based on his experience at NASA,” according to the Korean ministry.

Lee will travel to Orlando, where Danuri orbiter is going through the last touches before it lifts off from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 5 around 8:08 a.m.

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