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Robot- delivered Jajangmyeon Noodles
Soon in Seoul’s near future, citizens will be able to order jajangmyeon Chinese-Korean
noodles, buy medicine and shop for magazines at home and have them delivered by a
robot in half an hour.
Kim Bong-jin, the founder of South Korea’s biggest food-delivery app, is betting that
autonomous gadgets the size of a small cooler will help his Baedal Minjok delivery
service keep a grip on a market filled with new entrants. The goal is to cut costs, reduce
delivery-related accidents and cope with a labour shortage in one of the world’s fastestaging nations. Kim is confident that his Dilly robots will start deliveries within three
years.
Woowa Brothers Corp, the company behind Baedal Minjok, raised US$320mil from
Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital and GIC in the US to help develop a prototype that’s
set to roll out soon. The goal is to tap into a global service robotics market projected to
almost triple to US$29.8bil by 2023, according to Markets and Markets Research
Private Ltd.
Valued at 3 trillion won (US$2.7bil), Kim’s start-up company currently handles about 28
million orders a month. Getting deliveries to people in the nation of 51 million is not an
easy task.
First, Kim’s Dilly robots have to be able to navigate in urban landscapes dominated by
tall residential buildings. He has found a solution by partnering with a local manufacturer
that would let elevators talk with the delivery robots.
The goal is to win over potential customers like Lee Dong-woo, who orders food at
home at least once a week, getting everything from fried chicken and rice noodles to
raw beef delivered to the door.
“I wouldn’t mind robots getting my orders at all,” said the 39-year-old Seoul office
worker. “In fact, I’d like it more because I wouldn’t have to deal with sometimes
unpleasant deliverymen.”
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Kim has been recruiting an army of robotics engineers and working with Sunnyvale,
California-based Bear Robotics Inc, which has been developing devices that deliver
dishes to customers’ tables in restaurants. Kim thinks his Dilly robots will eventually be
able to handle simple errands, including tasks such as throwing out garbage or
delivering a home-made lunch.
“There’s a growing trend of using robots to do things that human beings do not want to
do,” said Jing Bing Zhang, an analyst at IDC.
“There are still a lot of technical challenges that need to be overcome. Especially in
urban areas like Singapore, Shanghai and Seoul, there’ll be some safety concerns,
whether they will be hit by other vehicles or will hit people.”
Kim is meeting some early resistance from people who dread the idea of robots roaming
inside their apartment complexes. Critics say the Dilly robots would scare children and
make their real estate less attractive.
“Some residents may still prefer humans, because they aren’t used to dealing with
machines for payments and other services,” said Jin Se-taek, who represents an
association of about 1,100 households at an apartment complex in Seongnam, south of
Seoul.
Even though his company is one of South Korea’s six unicorns, according to CB
Insights, Kim doesn’t believe in making people work longer than they have to. Kim
restricts his workers from labouring more than 35 hours a week, five hours less than
most companies in South Korea. So far, he’s satisfied with the increase in productivity.
“We didn’t introduce this so we could slack off,” Kim said. “My goal was to create a
workplace where we could concentrate better. We should never stop thinking about how
we can change the way we work so we change the way we live.”

 

Explain how countries can shape the development of their technological
environment. (100 marks)

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