The value of the Korean robotics industry jumped from $600 million in 2007 to $2 billion in 2011, and is expected to reach $2.7 billion sometime in 2012, according to the Korea Institute for Robot Industry Advancement (KIRIA).
And with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) –the official body responsible for overseeing legislation and regulation regarding robotics– and other government agencies publicly targeting a robot in every home by 2020, it’s no surprise that the discussion about legal and regulatory issues is more advanced in South Korea than in most other countries.
South Korean policy is not without potential flaws however, as light-touch regulation is being promoted in an effort to encourage growth in the commercial robotics sector.
As one of only a few nations in the world to enact basic robot laws and launch a governmental initiative to prepare a robot ethics charter, South Korea is among the leading nations when it comes to awareness of robotics-related ethical and legal issues, says Eung Jin Lee, senior legal advisor to the Korea Association of Robot Industry.
South Korea has an impressive track record in the space, from the release of a Robot Ethics Charter in 2007 to the enactment of the Intelligent Robot Development and Supply Promotion Act (IRDSPA) in 2008.
IRDSPA sets out a program for government to support the development of intelligent robots and lays out plans for a more developed Robot Ethics Charter, with the support of KIRIA, which was established in 2010.
Despite these efforts, the rise of intelligent robots could pose a real challenge to the existing legal regime in South Korea, says Lee, who strongly favors a ?minimalistic approach?, arguing that existing legal regimes should intervene ?only when conflict arises and only to the extent necessary to heal the wound.?
?I suspect that it could be dangerous for the government to do too much in preparation for the new environment [?] It could create a very undesirable distortion to the market,? explains Lee.
Nevertheless, as government and industry move from focusing on R&D to supporting commercialization, rapid changes in the legal arena are likely to occur.
?The speed of such evolution would be quite high. Once it reaches a certain threshold, I believe that the Korean government should feel an impending need for more specific legislation relating to embracing robots in our society,? says Lee.
South Korea is well-placed to develop legislation around robotics. However, only time will tell whether effective legislation will emerge, especially in an environment where there is significant resistance to perceived threats of over-regulation from both governmental and commercial entities.
Get an in-depth look at the course of action that each of these five world leaders is taking:
- 5.China : The lack of interest in robot-related legislation and regulation in China is a problem that must be urgently addressed.
- 4.United States: The United States is one of the few countries to enact robot-specific laws and regulations.
- 3.European Union: RoboLaw is a $1.9 million European Commission-funded project designed to prepare the way for the creation of legal and ethical guidelines.
- 1.Japan: Ethical and emotional barriers against new robots are not high in Japan, but people demand a high level of safety for those new technologies.
See related: Robots and the Law: Introduction Humankind?s new tool: who gets the blame when one screws up?
See related: Robot Law: A Global Perspective: First of a four-part series on how world regulators are bringing legislative and regulatory guidance to the robotics industry
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