Korea is at full throttle on memory investments

By Dan Tracy and Ji-Won Cho, SEMI

2017 proved to be record-setting year for the semiconductor industry. According to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS), worldwide semiconductor market will have grown 20 percent, exceeding $400 billion for the first time. Among all major product segments, memory is the strongest, with sales are on track to grow 60 percent year-over-year, contributing to 30 percent of worldwide semiconductor sales in 2017. The consensus is that the growth momentum in memory will continue in 2018, driven by stable market demand and a favorable pricing environment.

Korean memory makers are the biggest beneficiaries of this memory super cycle. According to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), the memory export value from Korea grew 86 percent through November 2017 compared to a year earlier, indicating that Korean memory makers are gaining more market share. On the supply side of the market, both Samsung and SK Hynix saw record high capital expenditures in 2017, contributing to the revenue surge from Korean suppliers. The spending spree is expected to continue in 2018. Together, Samsung and SK Hynix are forecast to invest over $20 billion in fab tools worldwide in 2018. (Track fab projects in detail with the SEMI World Fab Forecast or SEMI FabView databases).


Samsung’s anchor project in 2018 is the ramp of its new Fab P1 phase 2 line in Pyeongtaek. Samsung plans to add new 3D NAND as well as DRAM capacity at this fab, fortifying its leading position in memory market. Beyond 2018, Samsung’s Xian phase 2 plan is also underway for future expansion.

SK Hynix, on the other hand, will ramp up M14 fab in 2018, adding new capacity for both 3D NAND and DRAM. In the meantime, SK Hynix is building a new fab, M15, in Cheongju, Korea, for 3D NAND and Fab C3 in Wuxi, China, for DRAM.

Both of these leading memory makers plan to ride this memory cycle and intend to vault ahead of the competition. Future demand for 3D NAND will continue to be the strongest, driving new fab projects in Korea now and later in China. Nevertheless, DRAM supply will also see new capacity coming online this year, followed by rare new fab projects. Memory not only accounts for a major portion of worldwide semiconductor sales but will also propel the investment momentum in the coming years.

SEMICON Korea 2018

The strong memory growth sets the stage for SEMICON Korea, January 31 through February 2 in Seoul. The largest microelectronics event in Korea, with over 40,000 attendees expected, SEMICON Korea will focus on enabling participants to “Connect, Collaborate, and Innovate.”

Key SEMICON Korea highlights include:

  • The 1,919 booths are sold out as major equipment, materials, and subsystem/parts companies exhibit their new products and technology solutions at the show.
  • Industry giants including Samsung, Micron, Intel, Toshiba, Sony, SK Hynix and LAM Research will connect with Korean equipment, materials and subsystems/parts manufacturers through the Supplier Search Program.
  • Participation by engineers is expected to be strong this year, after more than 10,000 engineers from​ Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and DB Hitek attended SEMICON Korea 2017.

Major SEMICON Korea programs, including the following, will provide key insights into the Korea electronics manufacturing ecosystem:

  • Smart Automotive Forum
  • Smart Manufacturing Forum
  • Test Forum
  • SEMI Technology Symposium
  • Market Seminar

For a complete schedule of programs, visit www.semiconkorea.org/en/agenda-glance.


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