SEOUL -- South Korea's semiconductor exports could reach $23.5 billion this year, strengthened by growing demand for 64-megabit DRAMs, which are now selling for more than $8 apiece. That would exceed the export record of $22.1 billion established in 1995; exports have declined since then as producers grappled with the repercussions of the Asian financial crisis.
Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Electronics have both adjusted their 2000 sales projections upward as they plan aggressive sales strategies. Samsung has revised its sales projections to $8.5 billion, a 20% increase over the previous year. Hyundai is shooting for a similar growth rate, with 2000 sales totaling $6.6 billion.
South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, said, "Exports of DRAM devices have increased about 20.5% compared with last year. Semiconductor exports totaled in $7.3 billion by April."
With an increase of over 30% in the growth rate of semiconductor exports, ministry officials said, the $23.5 billion target for this year would not be difficult to attain.
"So far, 64-Mbit DRAM has been in the mainstream of memory device exports. But 128-Mbit DRAM could take over 30% of total exports after the fourth quarter," the ministry said.
Some industry watchers agreed that the current supply shortage of memory devices and higher prices traditionally seen in the second half of the year would bolster exports.
Still, Korean semiconductor manufacturers remain nervous about their ability to meet surging demand. "Regular customers take a big portion of our capacity," said one industry source. Domestic manufacturers are trying to expand supplies but said it will take time to build up capacity.
Samsung and Hyundai are hedging their bets by expanding existing production facilities instead of establishing new sites. Samsung said it plans to start up new production lines at its Hwasung plant one month earlier than its initial end-of-year projections.
Samsung plans to deploy 0.17-micron process technology on all of its production lines and to install new equipment, including test instruments, to increase capacity.
Without any investment in new facilities, Hyundai is struggling to boost its capacity by applying 0.18-micron process technology and by upgrading facilities. Anam Semiconductor is increasing wafer production, partly in response to a recent rise in orders from its main customer, Texas Instruments Inc.
-- Exclusive to EE Times by Chom Dan Inc. (Seoul).