OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is actively exploring opportunities in the semiconductor industry, with a visit to South Korea to engage with key players in the field. His agenda includes a tour of Samsung Electronics Co.’s chip fabrication plants in Pyeongtaek, where he is scheduled to meet top executives from diverse divisions spanning foundry, memory, and system LSI units.
The visit extends beyond Samsung, as Altman is set to discuss potential collaborations with SK Hynix Inc.’s CEO and SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won during his stay in South Korea.
Altman’s interest in South Korea’s semiconductor industry suggests OpenAI’s contemplation of a move into chip production. The strategic discussions with industry leaders aim to explore potential partnerships and pave the way for OpenAI’s entry into the competitive semiconductor landscape.
Sam Altman’s visit to South Korea comes amid the surging demand for computing power and processors, triggered by the widespread interest in AI applications, especially since OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT over a year ago.
The increased demand has led to a shortage of chips, prompting Altman to actively pursue raising billions of dollars for a semiconductor venture. While the exact objectives of Altman’s Korea trip remain undisclosed, there are reports suggesting his focus on establishing a network of semiconductor factories and potential collaborations with chipmakers.
This is Altman’s second visit to Korea in seven months, following his initial trip in June 2023. During his earlier visit, Altman engaged with President Yoon Suk Yeol and explored potential collaborations with Korean companies, emphasizing OpenAI’s interest in diversifying its chip supplier base. The current visit seeks to reduce reliance on Nvidia, the primary supplier of the graphics processing units (GPUs) used in OpenAI’s ChatGPT series.
Representatives for Samsung and SK Hynix declined to provide comments on Sam Altman’s recent visit, and OpenAI has not responded to requests for comments as well.
South Korea, in collaboration with Taiwan, stands as a major force in high-end chip production. While Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) leads the global foundry market, South Korea has companies like SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics, both crafting high-bandwidth memory (HBM) chips used in AI chipsets.
In addition to manufacturing chips for various customers, Samsung Electronics is expanding its foundry business, making it a key player in Altman’s discussions for potential collaborations.
The Korean government has outlined a plan involving private sector investments of 622 trillion won ($466 billion) to construct 13 new chip plants and three research facilities, aiming to establish the world’s largest chip-producing area by 2047.
Altman’s visit aims to secure a stable supply of advanced chips, crucial for the anticipated major upgrades of ChatGPT-4 within the year.
Recent discussions with U.S. lawmakers also indicate considerations for establishing semiconductor fabs in the United States. Its broader economic and military implications secure a reliable supply of high-performance chips for the AI sector and the nation.
Samsung and SK Hynix, the world’s top two memory chipmakers, are actively building sophisticated chip plants domestically. Samsung is directing major investments in foundry expansion, part of a larger 500 trillion won investment plan by 2047, while SK Hynix aims to allocate 122 trillion won for memory in Yongin over the same period.
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