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Korean Hi-Tech Innovators Come to US with Dreams of Success

Immigrants come to the United States for a variety of reasons but many come hoping for success. VOA's June Soh produced this story about some Korean entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and devices. It is narrated by Amy Katz.

Forgot the door key? With this digital door lock, it's never a problem. It recognizes your voice and unlocks the door. Seok-Hee Lee of LSG Inc. has just launched the VoiceKey in the U.S.

The search for a fool-proof way to identify people and protect sensitive locations led Dae-hoon Kim of Iritech Incorporated to develop the Iris Identification System.

"It captures an iris [imprint of the eye] and identifies each person individually like a finger print," explains Kim. "But an iris is much more unique compared to a finger print or a face. Because of the 9/11 terror American government makes very strict regulations for entering the U.S.A. And according to such regulations, so many governments and companies have strong interest in the iris identification system."

For those wanting to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, the repetitive motion strain that afflicts office workers, John Yang of Waawoo Technology Inc. has an answer. "As you can see this, when I am grabbing my Wow-Pen mouse it's just like using crayons or a pen. So when you grab it, you will feel more natural and easier than a conventional mouse."

Lee, Kim and Yang are all Korean entrepreneurs connected with the Korea Business Development Center located in Fairfax County, Virginia.

There are about a dozen tech-savvy entrepreneurs at the center, which is a technology incubator largely supported by the Korean government. It helps Korea-based companies get started and expand in the U.S. "Potential is great," says Seok-hee Lee. "We are now in the state of figuring out the market size, (distribution) channel and every thing."

The out-sourcing of jobs from the U.S. to other countries has caused an outcry, but this is part of what could be called in-sourcing, and the influx has become a significant - if quiet - trend.

In Fairfax County alone, there are 325 businesses from outside the U.S. compared to 70 businesses 10 years ago, says Gerald Gordon, president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. "They create close to 20,000 jobs, and those jobs spin off into the economy, other jobs," explains Gordon. "So there is a great impact on our local employment picture. They also create trade opportunities, which increase the wealth."

Most of the Korean companies in the center are in the research and development phase. That means the entrepreneurs spend a lot of time flying between their laboratories in Korea and their sales operations in the U.S. David Callahan is a senior advisor at the center.

"I think a number of them have a very great potential because their technologies are innovative and they meet the need in the U.S. markets," says Callahan. "So several of them don't have very much competition at all."

And their potential is not limited to the U.S. market. "Our intention is to take Dr. Kim's technology and make it a viable commercial product not particularly in my country," says Prabhu Sridharan of the Indonesian industrial group Texmaco, which has established a partnership with Dae-Hoon Kim. "I am looking at the global market for this."

Dae-Hoon Kim adds, "I also want to make this company as number one security company using iris technology (in the world)."