SEOUL, South Korea South Korea's struggling semiconductor industry is looking to diversify away from memory devices as a way to break out of its prolonged slump.
Industry executives gathered here this week for a strategy symposium sponsored by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) and the Korean Semiconductor Industry Association (KSIA).
The Korean industry's heavy dependence on DRAM manufacturing was widely cited as the reason for the industry's stunning reversal of fortunes over the last 18 months. Observers here said sales volume for Korean DRAM makers will slide to 1994 levels this year. The slump, along with Asia's growing economic crisis, has contributed to postponement of plans to launch 300-mm wafer projects. Consolidation of the Korean electronics industry is also expected.
Despite the downturn, Jong Hyung Son, an analyst with Dataquest, predicted the DRAM market would turn around in the second half of 1999.
Industry executives nevertheless called for greater diversification to insulate the Korean industry from future downturns. Soo Choi, director of the coordination and support office for Hyundai Electronics Industries Co. Ltd., said the "semiconductor technology trend is changing from the low-profit commodity into the value-added products with high profit."
Korean companies are expected to target the increasingly competitive logic IC business while diversifying into ASICs, DSPs and other custom products.
KSIA President Chi-Luck Kim said development of a semiconductor equipment business in Korea will require closer technical collaboration between IC makers and suppliers, long-term contracts with chip makers, export of Korean products overseas and expansion of the Korean market.