In response to President Moon Jae-in’s request, Masayoshi Son, the SoftBank chairman, has said he would invest in the South Korean artificial intelligence field.
In a Thursday meeting Son – an ethnic Korean whose great-grandparents moved to Japan in search of economic opportunity – proposed that the country plunge full-tilt into investment in the sector.
What South Korea should focus on in the future most of all, Son said, is artificial intelligence. “AI will bring about the greatest revolution in human history,” he said, according to a briefing paper from the Blue House.
“Young entrepreneurs have passion and ideas, but they have no funds,”Son observed. “That’s why investment is needed to help unicorns be born. Such invested companies will increase their sales, which will lead to job creation and expansion into global companies.”
Moon called on Son to invest in South Korean start-ups, saying, “Large companies can invest on their own, but venture start-ups are suffering from lack of funds.”
The president also said that the Korean market is limited in size. Korean firms should advance to the global market, he said. He asked for Son’s help in making Korean inroads into the global market, using the SoftBank global network.
Moon also asked for Son’s attention and support in the field of training AI specialists, a request to which Son replied, “I will.”
“Although South Korea started late in the AI field, we have strengths in many aspects,” said President Moon. “We have achieved commercialization of world-class internet and 5G for the first time and are far ahead in commercialization of concepts that have already been created.”
Son replied, “We will help the world invest in artificial intelligence in Korea.” He added that “Korea should also invest in the world’s top companies. This is the fastest way for South Korea to become the top artificial intelligence nation.”
The meeting between Moon and Son was held amid Japan’s economic retaliatory measures against Korean court rulings requiring compensation for colonial-era Koreans ‘subjugation to forced labor.
Son also met five of Korea’s business leaders on Thursday, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Hyundai Motor Group Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun and LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo.
Regarding the meeting, an industry source said, “It was a friendly meeting not intended to talk about business seriously.”
AI became seen as a major interest for Son in 2016 when SoftBank acquired semiconductor maker ARM for $32 billion. SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund has made large investments in AI industries such as autonomous driving and vertical farms.