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World science forum kicks off in Daejeon

A global meeting of science ministers and experts began in central South Korea on Monday to discuss ways to achieve sustained economic development and improve the quality of life through technological innovations.

The five-day World Science & Technology Forum started as the first event of the gathering of science officials from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that will run through Friday in this central South Korean city packed with research labs.

Under the theme "Creating our common future through science, technology, and innovation," the OECD gathering has brought together around 3,000 visitors from 57 countries and 12 international organizations, including ministerial-level government delegates and scholars.

Along with the OECD members, science delegations from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are participating in the gathering to discuss how to use technology to bridge gaps among different regions and countries.

Around 1,000 participants attended the World Science & Technology Forum alone. World-famous scholars, including Jeremy Rifkin and Nobel laureate Aaron Ciechanover, will deliver lectures Monday.

"Currently, the world is facing climate change, and other challenges, including energy and new diseases, which need to be solved with science technologies," South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn also said.

"Science technologies are no longer just a tool for economic development. They are taking greater roles in improving the well-being of mankind and in promoting cultural activities," he added.

"It is meaningful that science experts have gathered to discuss the sustainable development of technologies and shared growth among different countries," Hwang said.

Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Choi Yang-hee also requested the participants make efforts in finding fundamental ways to overcome the common challenges of mankind.

"South Korea wishes to contribute to the world's innovation in science technologies through cooperation with various countries and share its vibrant experiences of the past and the present," Choi said in an opening speech.

The South Korean government also highlighted that it wishes to share its creative economy policy with the world, which aims to generate new growth engines through merging different industries on the back of science and technology.

Monday's event commenced with a lecture by Jeremy Rifkin, an American theorist who is also well known in South Korea as a "futurist."

Rifkin highlighted that global industry is heading towards what he calls "the zero margin society," where more people can enjoy products or services without additional costs.

"The wind is not sending invoices," Rifkin said, highlighting that environment-friendly power generation can benefit more people without much costs compared to traditional energy sources.

"We now have three billion people who are not only producers and buyers. They are now prosumers," he said. "Already the young people live in hybrid systems. They are exchanging goods and services free, zero margin cost in sharing economy."

Rifkin said digitalization has brought the wane of traditional industries such as magazines or TVs, but also have brought new opportunities such as the Internet of Things.

"Samsung is moving the IoT platforms. There are tremendous opportunities in South Korea," Rikin said.

IoT is a concept in which all tangible objects are connected to the Internet and can identify themselves to other devices in order to exchange necessary data for improved efficiency and convenience.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the OECD science ministerial meeting will start, where delegates will begin full-fledged discussions on utilizing science and technology for mankind.Such discussions will be summarized in the "Daejeon Declaration" on Wednesday.

South Korea's ICT ministry said the declaration will seek to find "strong," "sustainable" and "inclusive" global growth through science and technology.

During the event, members of ASEAN will also meet with officials from the OECD to seek shared growth among nations through science and technology.

On Friday, South Korean science and industry officials will hold a meeting to discuss the achievements of the OECD gathering. (Yonhap)