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[ICT] Korea, Transforming Itself into a Robot-Friendly Country

Status of the Korean Robotics Industry

The robotics industry is a promising future industry that will champion industrial innovation and labor market changes. The convergence of new technologies such as AI and 5G with robots has expanded the scale of human-robot collaboration. As a result, robots are emerging as new capital goods that make production more efficient across manufacturing activities. In the service sector, robots are also becoming more mobile and intelligent, opening up new business markets that are revolutionizing logistics, people’s safety, national defense, and food manufacturing. Robots are also a key means to effectively address the imbalance of labor supply and demand, which has resulted from the rapid decline in the working age population and the increase in the elderly population.

Korea's robotics industry generated KRW 5.9 trillion in sales in 2022, and the number of robotics companies has reached 2,510. The industry has seen an increase in sales and production in the manufacturing, service, and robot parts markets, driven by the growth of the overall robotics market, with the market for personal service robots showing the fastest rate of growth.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), Korea ranked first in the world by deploying 1,012 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in 2022. The robotics industry is believed to be driving the country's high growth rate, as Korea's distribution of robots is focused on the country’s world-class electrical, electronics and automotive industries.
Scale of the Korean Robotics Industry
(Unit: KRW 100 million, %)
한국 로봇산업 규모에 관한 표
Type Sales Production
2020 2021 2022 Change 20∼22
Annual avg.
2020 2021 2022 Change 20∼22
Annual avg.
Manufacturing 28,658 28,740 29,747 3.5 1.9 25,949 26,514 27,319 3.0 2.6
Service 8,577 9,077 9,823 8.2 7.0 7,896 8,157 9,225 13.1 8.1
Professional 4,611 5,091 5,417 6.4 8.4 4,332 4,478 5,081 13.5 8.3
Personal 3,966 3,985 4,406 10.6 5.4 3,564 3,679 4,144 12.6 7.8
Parts 17,501 18,266 19,363 6.0 5.2 16,436 16,938 18,721 10.5 6.7
Total 54,736 56,083 58,933 5.1 3.8 50,280 51,609 55,265 7.1 4.8

Korea's Robotics Policies and Systems Introduced to Lead the Global Robotics Market

Establishment of the '4th Master Plan for Intelligent Robots' to Build the K-Robot Economy

As the robotics industry has converged with the semiconductor, AI, secondary battery, and high-tech component industries, emerging as a new growth engine and a national strategic industry with a huge backward and forward spillover effect, countries around the world have recognized robotics as a future strategic industry and a key sector in enhancing industrial competitiveness. Accordingly, they are promoting multifaceted policies.

In January 2024, the Korean government announced the 4th Master Plan for Intelligent Robots (2024-2028) to build the K-Robot Economy, and presented three key strategies to lead the global robotics market. First, the government plans to invest more than KRW 3 trillion by 2030 by working with the private sector in order to strengthen competitiveness in technology, manpower, and businesses. It will begin by developing eight core technologies, including five hardware technologies such as speed reducers and three software technologies such as autonomous operation. In addition, the government plans to train more than 15,000 specialists who will lead the high-tech robotics industry by linking the robotics industry with the mobility industry such as future vehicles and drones, while fostering more than 30 intelligent robotics companies with sales of more than KRW 100 billion.

Second, the Korean government will increase the industrial and social contributions of robots by improving productivity and reducing accident rates and massively deploying more than 1 million robots by 2030 across industries, including manufacturing, logistics, welfare, and safety. It will strengthen cooperation among ministries and actively support the process of obtaining overseas certifications so that robotics companies can build sufficient track records in the domestic market and expand overseas.

Third, the Intelligent Robot Act will be completely reorganized to create a new institutional foundation for supporting technological advancements and changes in the robotics industry. In addition, a national robot test field will be built by investing KRW 200 billion to ensure that the developed robots are safe and reliable to meet the standards of the market and consumers.
4th Master Plan for Intelligent Robots
제4차 지능형로봇 기본계획 추진방향

Amendment of the Intelligent Robot Act Opens the Era of Outdoor Mobile Robots

In 2023, Korea allowed the use of outdoor mobile robots in new businesses such as delivery and patrol. Until now, outdoor mobile robots were not allowed to use sidewalks. However, with the amendment and enforcement of the Intelligent Robot Act (amended on May 16, 2023, and enforced on Nov. 17, 2023) and the Road Traffic Act (amended on Apr. 18, 2023, and enforced on Oct.19, 2023), outdoor mobile robots that have received safe operation certification are granted the status of pedestrians and are allowed to pass on sidewalks. Those who want to operate outdoor mobile robots on sidewalks are obligated to purchase an insurance plan (or deductible). Outdoor mobile robots must also comply with the same road traffic laws as pedestrians, such as obeying traffic signals and avoiding jaywalking. In the early stages of implementing the outdoor mobile robot operation safety certification system, even robots that are certified to operate will be closely monitored for possible safety accidents.

Status of Korean Robotics Companies

Korean companies are lagging behind their European and Japanese peers in the field of manufacturing robots, but they are building up their competitive advantage by investing heavily in the field of collaborative robots and expanding their application fields through convergence with AI and autonomous driving technologies. Doosan Robotics, a Korean company with the world’s fifth largest global market share in the collaborative robot sector, is expected to grow rapidly by opening sales subsidiaries in the United States and Europe and expanding its global sales network.

In the field of service robots, Korean conglomerates are actively taking over or buying shares of robotics companies, and are investing more in robotics by incorporating robotics technology into their existing business models. For instance, Samsung Electronics acquired a stake in Rainbow Robotics, which developed Korea's first humanoid robot, HUBO, while Hyundai Motor Company acquired Boston Dynamics, a global leader in robotics.

Meanwhile, Bear Robotics, a serving robot company based in Silicon Valley, is mass-producing robots in Korea. As orders for serving robots are piling up around the world, Bear Robotics sees Korea as an optimal base for robot production and aims to produce all orders in Korea. While serving robots need to be produced in small batches of various types, Bear Robotics’ assessment is that Korea is suitable for manufacturing robots due to its well-developed robot production infrastructure.

By Jun-Gyo Seo, (, Ph.D.)
Korea Institute for Robot Industry Advancement

< The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of KOTRA.>

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