OpenAI CEO visits South Korea as country seeks to encourage AI development

FILE PHOTO: Sam Altman, CEO of Microsoft-backed OpenAI and ChatGPT creator speaks during a talk at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

SEOUL (Reuters) – Open AI Chief Executive Sam Altman is set to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, as the country seeks to encourage domestic competitiveness in artificial intelligence.

After crisscrossing Europe last month meeting lawmakers and national leaders to discuss the prospects and threats of AI, Altman has travelled to Israel, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, India and South Korea – all this week.

“People are focused on not stifling innovation, and that any regulatory framework has got to make sure that the benefits of this technology come to the world,” Altman said as he met with about 100 South Korean startups on Friday.

The rapid development and popularity of generative AI since Microsoft Corp-backed OpenAI launched ChatGPT last year is spurring lawmakers globally to formulate laws to address safety concerns linked to the technology.

The European Union is moving ahead with its draft AI Act, which is expected to become law this year, while the United States is leaning toward adapting existing laws for AI rather than creating new legislation.

South Korea has new AI regulations awaiting full parliament approval; those rules are seen as less restrictive than the EU’s.

In February, a parliament committee passed an AI law draft that guarantees freedom to release AI products and services, and will only restrict them if regulators deem any product to be harming the lives, safety, and rights of people.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT announced in April plans focused on fostering local AI development, such as measures to provide training datasets for sophisticated “hyperscale” AI, while continuing discussions on AI ethics and regulations.

South Korea is one of few countries that has developed its own foundation models for artificial intelligence in a field dominated by the United States and China, thanks to local tech firms such as Naver, Kakao, and LG.

The companies are seeking ways to tap niche or specialised markets that have not yet been addressed by big tech in the United States or China.

“In order for Korean companies to have strength in the global AI ecosystem, each company must first secure specialised technology for vertical AI,” or AI designed and optimised for specific uses, said LG AI Research chief Kyunghoon Bae.

Naver said it has been eager to develop localised AI applications for countries with political sensitivities in the Middle East as well as for non-English speaking countries and regions, such as Japan and Southeast Asia.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Deepa Babington, Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle)

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