Korean Memory Giants Face Rising Heat from Chinese Rivals

In recent years, the landscape of the semiconductor memory market has undergone a notable transformation. South Korea’s memory giants, Samsung and SK Hynix, are now facing intense competition from Chinese manufacturers, feeling the increasing pressure of rivalry as the technological gap continues to narrow.

According to a report by Business Korea, industry insiders have revealed that China’s augmented investment in the semiconductor memory sector has significantly reduced the gap in NAND flash technology to approximately two years, following years of development. However, the disparity in DRAM technology remains wider, estimated at around five years. The primary reason is the relatively lower barrier to entry in NAND flash technology, which has facilitated a quicker pace of advancement, thus making the narrowing gap more pronounced.

At the 2022 Flash Memory Summit (FMS), Yangtze Memory Technologies, China’s largest semiconductor memory company, unveiled its fourth-generation 3D TLC flash memory chip, the X3-9070, based on the Xtacking 3.0 architecture. This release places Yangtze Memory ahead of both Samsung and SK Hynix in terms of higher-layer NAND flash chip mass production, effectively countering external skepticism. It is understood that last year alone, the company received an investment of 90 trillion South Korean Won from the government and state-owned investment funds. This sustained and substantial financial backing has indeed yielded results, not only in terms of technological catch-up but also in faster market penetration.

Moreover, as the miniaturization of semiconductor circuits approaches its limits, domestic companies may seize another opportunity to close the technological gap through advanced packaging technologies. High-performance, multi-chip packaging is seen as key to overcoming the constraints of semiconductor miniaturization. Mainland China, being the world’s second-largest market for packaging technology and boasting a well-developed ecosystem, has companies like JCET, TFME, and Huatian Technology ranking among the top ten global semiconductor packaging companies. Notably, no South Korean company features in this list.