UPDATED. 2024-05-20 21:44 (월)
Lam Research Korea changes president amid challenges to market dominance
Lam Research Korea changes president amid challenges to market dominance
  • Roh Tae Min
  • 승인 2024.02.16 10:14
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New president Park faces aggressive push from rival Tokyo Electron, patent lawsuits
Park Joon-hong.

Lam Research has changed the president of its South Korean operation amid stiff challenges ahead __ from rival Tokyo Electron’s aggressive push to its ongoing patent lawsuits with PSK.

The fab equipment maker named Park Joon-hong as the new president of Lam Research Korea on January 30. The new president held key positions in Lam Research Korea such as the chief technology executive of etching and head of customer relations during his tenure.

Park will head Lam Research Korea, Lam Research Manufacturing Korea as well as Lam Research Korea Technology, the company’s global research center based in South Korea.

Outgoing president Lee Sang-won will wrap up transferring his duties by June and then retire. Lee became president of Lam Research Korea in 2021 and also became the head of Lam Research Manufacturing Korea and Lam Research Korea Technology, becoming the head of Lam Research's entire South Korean operation.

Lam Research’s South Korean operation takes up a large portion of its overall business as it is the home country of main customers Samsung and SK Hynix which uses its kits for their NAND production. That is why it operates three subsidiaries in the country due to its importance; locally, the person who heads all three subsidiaries is called the Head of Korean Business.

Local fab equipment company sources put the reshuffle in the context of the current state of the market as Lam Research, the world leader in etchers, is facing multiple threats to its dominant position.

Two main challenges are dogging Lam Research.

The first is Tokyo Electron’s entry into the NAND channel hole etcher market, a sector in which Lam Research held an effective monopoly so far. However, the Japanese fab equipment maker unveiled its own competing etcher for NAND channel hole last year, which experts believe is a viable threat to Lam Research’s market domination.

Tokyo Electron’s new kit can etch at ultra-fast speed in extremely low temperatures. The company explained in its paper published in June last year that it could etch 10 micrometers in 33 minutes.

Sources previously told TheElec that Lam Research was watching the situation closely internally. An internal memo shared within Lam Research predicted that the launch of Tokyo Electron’s new etcher could cause it to lose 10% to 15% of its market share. Samsung is already testing Tokyo Electron’s new etcher.

This means Lam Research needs to respond to Tokyo Electron’s overtures to key customers. 

The naming of Park as president of Lam Research Korea is relevant here as when he was the head of customer relations his main customer was none other than Samsung, the world’s largest memory chipmaker. He was also the chief technology executive handling etching in 2016.

The second issue for Lam Research is its patent lawsuits with PSK over bevel etchers, in which it lost some cases. The pair are in the middle of lawsuits over six patents since 2021. Lam Research held an effective monopoly over bevel etchers before the lawsuits.

Ruling for three of the patents was made last year at the appellate court; Lam Research won one and lost two. This means that PSK can begin supplying its own bevel etcher to South Korean chipmakers. The rulings for the remaining three patents are expected to come out in the first half of the year. 

Park’s mission will be to defend Lam Research’s market share in South Korea from Tokyo Electron and bring favorable results from the bevel etcher lawsuits. It will be a tough challenge.

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