Daejeon Diary: Trees, Robots and Costco

Following up on Bill’s post about the Korea Study Mission, you can follow all the action of the trip here. The International Study Mission program has become the traveling university of the Greater Seattle area. For a region like ours which is so tied to the international economy, it is crucial our civic leadership understands the rest of the world.  In addition, we can learn from what others are doing to compete in the global economy and adapt those lessons to our region.

As Bill pointed out, Korea has successfully transitioned into a high technology economy with students that routinely receive the highest scores in math and science.  On this trip we are focusing on Daejeon and later traveling to Seoul.  Our region’s relationship with Daejeon goes a long ways back. The delegation saw this first hand yesterday when we arrived at “Seattle Park,” a well-used commons in the heart of the city.  There we took part in a planting ceremony of a pine tree. Fifteen years ago, then-Mayor of Seattle Norm Rice helped dedicate the park which has a plaque at its entrance with Seattle’s name on it (stand by for photos of the plaque and more).

From trees to technology we traveled, when we toured and learned about the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI). Established in 1976, ETRI has played a central role in helping Korea become an advanced information and communication powerhouse as the country’s largest government-funded research institute.  Specializing in information and communications technology, ETRI’s budget totals $530 million.  The institute has joint research and development projects all over the world, half of which are with U.S. organizations and companies.

After a presentation of ETRI, we were given a tour of some of the latest technology. We saw a robot that can recognize its owner using new visual recognition technology. Our guide referred to herself on more than one occasion as “master” in relation to the robot.  As the technology develops, the robot may decide he’s the master. We also saw digital stunt actors.  One example was showing a digital replication of a famous Korean actor speaking.  They were two peas in a digital pod. We also saw a stunning technology that allows you to move data from one computer to another using the electric current in your body. You put your hand on one computer and your other on another computer and data shifts from one to the other.  This gives a whole new meaning to the electric slide dance.

Are Actors Artificial? Pick the actor vs. the digital rep

We ended the evening in Greater Seattle…or at least it felt like it when we visited Daejeon’s Costco store. This is Costco’s largest revenue generating store in Asia.   The packed facility gave a little touch of home for delegates who had traveled across the Paciifc.


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