If often turbulent national politics allow, South Korea is shaping up to become the next Japan – but don’t run away with the idea that the Koreans are much like Japan. Where the Japanese are trained and educated to think alike and to work towards consensus, so that it pays to cultivate people at all levels of a Japanese company in order to get one’s point across, with Korean companies, the boss is expected to be something of an autocrat, and if you want a decision, go straight to the top. And all the signs are that we will be doing more and more business with Korea as the trail-blazing of the industrial conglomerates is followed by the creation of a string of thrusting young newcomers, often led by US-educated Koreans, who are anxious to prove their worth, make their mark and put into practice what they have learned in the US. The preferred approach is to start out by buying a licence to US technology, either by giving an established company an outlet that would otherwise be closed in the Korean market, or by laying hands on some cash that can be used as venture capital to help a US start-up to get on its feet, in return for rights to the product in development, and perhaps a contract to be the sole manufacturing source for it. Typical is the Korean 32-bit supermicro market. Korean Computerworld reports that following the lead of major vendors such as Gold Star Co and Samsung Semiconductor & Telecommunications Co, smaller manufacturers have entered the domestic 32-bit supermicro arena here with entries of their own. As demand heats up for 32-bit performance, firms such as Zeus Computer Co, KIPS and APC have jumped on the bandwaggon by hooking up with foreign computer firms.
Zeus Computer, in conjunction with Zeltec since last year, has developed the 32UX 32-bit supermicro using, needless to say, Unix System V and built around two National Semiconductor NS32016s and supports four to 16 users. KIPS has gone to Motorola for the wherewithal to produce the 68010-based Series 200-290 supermicro, which is claimed to support up to 18 users under Unix System V. APC, with IBC as its technology partner, is one of the earliest companies anywhere to offer a Xenix machine, the APC-32, built around the Intel 80386; the machine is claimed to support up to 100 users. The majors have found their main market for their 32-bit supermicros in public offices and corporate research institutions. Gold Star is currently promoting the GSM-2068 and the GSM-3068, based on the Altos Computer Systems machines with the same numbers. Samsung Semiconductor & Telecommunications is advertising the SSM-32, developed in co-operation with the Korean Electronics & Telecommunications Research Institute. And Samsung Hewlett-Packard is soon expected to adapt versions of its new HP 9000/840 RISC workstation for the Korean market. Having learned the rules of the game from their technology partners, the Korean companies will no doubt be pushing out onto the world market in two or three years’ time with low-cost successor products of their own designing.