In the longstanding rivalry between Japan and South Korea, near-neighbour North Asian technology industry heavyweights, the pendulum has swung Korea's way, helped by currency shifts, but also due to marketing and product savvy and nimbler production strategies.
Following is a summary of the leading South Korean and Japanese technology companies.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, established in 1969, is world leader in memory chips, including dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and NAND flash memory. It is also the largest TV brand by revenue and the biggest LCD TV maker. It is the global No.1 in LCD screens and, with its affiliates, makes plasma panels and mobile displays. In mobile phones, represented by its Anycall brand, Samsung ranks No.2 behind Nokia. It also makes personal computers and appliances.
LG Electronics Inc was set up in 1958 and is the world's No.3 mobile phone maker and market leader in household air conditioners. It is the second-biggest TV brand globally and has caught up with Japan's Sony in LCD TVs. LG owns 38 percent of LG Display Co Ltd, the world's No.2 LCD panel maker behind Samsung. In appliances, it competes with bigger rivals Whirlpool Corp and Electrolux.
Hynix Semiconductor Inc, set up as Hyundai Electronics in 1983, is the world's No.2 DRAM supplier and makes NAND flash memory and other non-memory semiconductors. It grew through a merger with LG Group's chip business in 1999, but was hit by a financial crisis and was bailed out by creditors, to be renamed Hynix. Its creditors-turned-shareholders are trying to sell a 28 percent stake, but the only interest has come from Hyosung Corp, a mid-tier fibres-to-plant machinery group.
Sony Corp, founded in 1946, makes Bravia flat-TVs, PlayStation game consoles, Cyber-shot digital cameras and Handycam camcorders. It also has movie, music and financial operations, and runs a mobile joint venture with Sweden's Ericsson. Sony is world No.1 in camcorders and ranks second in LCD TVs and digital cameras, behind Samsung and Canon Inc, respectively. It launched its first Walkman three decades ago but has been overtaken by Apple Inc's iPod in portable music players.
Panasonic Corp, formerly Matsushita Electric Industrial, was founded 91 years ago, and offers Viera flat-TVs and Lumix digital cameras. It is the world's largest maker of plasma TVs and ranks 7th in LCD TVs. Its product portfolio also includes white goods and factory automation equipment. Panasonic this month launched a tender offer for shares in Sanyo Electric Co Ltd, the world's largest rechargeable battery maker, as it seeks to become a powerhouse in hybrid car batteries.
Toshiba Corp is the world's second-largest maker of NAND-type flash memory chips and sixth-biggest in LCD TVs. Its electronics operations were hit last year when its HD DVD technology lost a high-definition DVD format battle against the Sony-led Blu-ray camp. The owner of U.S. nuclear firm Westinghouse is shifting its focus from volatile microchips to more stable revenues in its power systems business.
(Reporting by Rhee So-eui and Kiyoshi Takenaka, editing by Ian Geoghegan)