We live in the age of chips. Tiny and ubiquitous, they are found in the humble rice cooker as well as fighter jets. Electric cars rely on some 3,000 semiconductors. With increasing digitalisation, however, the mighty microchip has become weaponised in the fierce power struggle between the United States and China. And South Korea is caught smack in the middle of it.
Its two major chipmakers - Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix - accounted for 71.5 per cent of the global Dram output and 53.6 per cent of the global Nand flash production last year. Samsung, the world's largest memory chip maker, is also in stiff competition with Taiwan's TSMC to mass manufacture high-end semiconductors. What this means is that any meaningful restructuring of the world semiconductor value chain cannot come about without factoring in Korean chips.