French minister voices hope for stronger ties with S. Korea in digital technology

SEOUL-- France wants to boost ties with South Korea in the field of digital technology to help make the European nation a better place to do business not only for major firms, but also innovative startups, the country's digital affairs secretary said Tuesday.

"South Korea is a very strong player in the semiconductor, battery and 5G fields. We have our strength in AI and aerospace. I think we can help each other in a way that is mutually complementary, and I am hoping to strengthen our strategic partnership in these areas," Cedric O, secretary of state for digital affairs, told a press conference in Seoul.

O, who has Korean lineage on his father's side, was in Seoul on a five-day visit for the first time since he assumed the post as digital minister in April. He previously served as an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron.

"France has taken extensive measures to reform its labor and tax systems to create an ecosystem for digitalization. I believe France and South Korea share many common interests and there is plenty of room for the two sides to discuss and look for ways to find a new cooperative part," he said.

Speaking of innovation, O highlighted the importance of existing corporations being able to embrace a new technology, saying that conflict between traditional and new companies is inevitable.

"The conflict between tradition and new power is natural, but it cannot be rejected. Change is already there, whether or not you want that change. So it's our task and responsibility as the government to help the change be accepted," he noted.

Citing the case for BlaBlaCar, a French mobile carpooling service that has grown into a major player across Europe, O said that government support for the existing market is key to harmony.

"Putting aside the confrontation, people are already using BlaBlaCar, before you talk about whether it's wrong or right to allow the business. So what the government can do is to try to provide support for the existing taxies."

South Korea has also seen a growing dispute between the taxi industry and operators of mobile carpooling and rental van-hailing services, amid criticism of ambiguous regulations.

During his visit, O is scheduled to meet with government officials here, including Park Young-sun, minister for smaller and venture firms and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. He will also meet industry officials from Samsung Electronics, Naver, LG Chemical and others.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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