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Role of science and technology for future development

The role of science and technology in a future Korean society may be broadly stated as one of meeting felt needs by technological innovation and scientific advancement and of realizing long-term national goals for the next century. These goals fall under the following six headings:

To ensure national security and social stability

For a resource-poor country like the Republic of Korea, conserving energy and oil-substitutable energy is vital. Food technology is similarly important to maintain social stability. Science and technology are expected to play a vitally important role in ensuring national security and social stability.

To sustain the growth of the national economy and to improve its efficiency

In the past, technological progress made only a minor contribution to the growth of national income, and this should be changed. Furthermore, the technological gap with developed countries should be reduced in certain strategically selected areas. At the same time, technology intensification should be undertaken in small and medium-scale enterprises, which take approximately 97.5 per cent of the total, but contribute only 36 per cent to the Korean economy in terms of value added production.

To prepare for a smooth transition to an information society

Societal change to an information society will demand the development of information-related industries centred around micro-electronics, communications, computers, etc. Moreover, reducing the labour component of production systems through automation technology will require re-education of displaced labour.

To improve the quality of life

Technology in areas of public health such as disease control, medicine and medical electronics needs to be developed. Another area is the protection of the environment for better dwelling conditions on the one hand, and for increased productivity of the land on the other.

Development of information technology directly related to daily living, it should be noted, will increase social benefits, and this in turn will help reduce urbanization. The preference for urban living will disappear with the development of an information system on a nationwide scale.

To create a new culture suitable for the new society

A conflict between traditional cultural values and progressive contemporary values has existed in Korean society during the recent process of industrialization. A national consensus should be created for the development of science and technology. Another far-reaching goal of science and technology is the creation of a new culture for the next century.

Long-term goal of S&T development

The long-term goal of science and technology should be in accordance with that of national development. The national development goal is stated as achieving equal ranking with the developed countries by becoming the world's fifteenth in terms of GNP and the tenth in terms of trade volume. To compensate for the country's paucity of natural resources, the necessary goal for S&T is to become no. 10 in the world in the area of industrial technology.

Because of the limitation in available resources, priority areas should be established through consideration of, among other things, national needs and comparative advantage. The role of S&T is to lead national development and to support socio-economic needs. The priority areas that have been identified are:

- Development of electronics, information, and communication technologies.

- Development of selected high technologies to lead the industrial structure adjustment.

- Development of key technologies to increase the international competitiveness of existing Korean industries.

- Development of technologies related to resources, energy, and food for social and economic stability.

- Development of technology in the area of health care, environmental protection, and social information systems to improve the quality of life and social benefits.

- Fostering of creative basic research to promote scientific advancement and to expand sources of technological innovation.

These priority areas were identified using the following basic criteria:

- Economic return and growth potential in view of limited development resources.
- Probability of success in view of development capability and experience.
- Indispensability in relation to national security and socio-economic stability.
- Industrial and technological linkage.
- Future contribution in relation to public welfare and new industrial possibilities.

The report "Long-term Perspectives for Science and Technology Development to the Year 2000" has laid down a set of policy guidelines in accordance with these basic directions, covering manpower, investment, national R&D systems, technological information systems, financial and tax support mechanisms, generation of a market for new technology products, technology intensification of small business, formation of R&D estates, build-up of a technology-oriented social culture, and internationalization of science and technology and international cooperation. Among the major recommendations were the following:

Manpower development will increase the proportion of scientists and engineers to the level of 30 persons (from the current 8 persons) per 10,000 population, amounting to about 150,000 scientists and engineers for R&D. Investment in R&D will be expanded from 1.7 per cent of the GNP in 1985 to over 3 per cent. The government and public sector will be responsible for 40 per cent of the total, and the private sector for the remaining 60 per cent, for which inducement policy instruments will be improved. Top priority in investment will be given to areas of high expected return, high linkage and externality, indispensability, and high probability of success and public interest.

For an efficient division of R&D activities, industrial firms would devote themselves to industrial technologies, whilst national and public institutes would be responsible for mission-oriented, applied research and for national projects of high risk and externality, and universities for basic research and manpower development, as well as for cooperation with public sector institutes and industries.

An efficient nationwide system of scientific and technological information will be established to collect, manage, and distribute information. Financial and tax support systems and public procurement will be used to induce the private sector.

In the next century, small and medium-scale industries will grow to form the backbone of the national economy, because the economic structure will change to one of "economies of variety" rather than "economies of scale." Therefore, support systems involving financial, tax, information, and public procurement measures will be specially devised for the technology intensification of small and medium-scale industries.

In the 1990s, in order to integrate education and research, particularly for high technology, R&D estates will be constructed in various regions to form a network. Development of technologies at regional level will contribute greatly to the balanced development of the Republic of Korea.

Summing-up and regional cooperation

In order to modernize the economy, the Republic of Korea adopted an unbalanced growth strategy for industrialization. Anticipated imbalances became apparent in many areas, for example between urban and regional development, between large-scale and small-scale businesses, and between export and domestic industries.

To redress the urban bias, increasing income in rural areas has become an important issue for the country. To this end, the mechanization of farming has been recently promoted in order to increase agricultural productivity. Opportunities for off-farm income generation have also been expanded through the creation of small-scale industrial estates in rural areas.

Large-scale enterprises have reached the level at which they can take care of themselves, and hence assistance in recent years has been directed towards the promotion of small and medium-scale enterprises. As a result, the latter are increasing both production and exports. This effort will be continued.

In order to balance export and domestic industries, a programme of industrial structural adjustment has been devised to effect a shift in the direction of technology-intensive industries. Here technology development emerges as most important. At their present level of development, Korean industries should possess enough indigenous capability to overcome the growing protectionism in technology and to increase their bargaining power for its importation.

Regional cooperation

At the present stage of development, the Korean economy can only maintain its sustained growth through ambitious internationalization.

Internationalization is not only desirable for domestic reasons, but is also in line with the growing interdependence of the world economy. As a leading NIC, the Republic of Korea is now expected to play an important role by both developed and developing countries.

The centre of the world economy is predicted to move to the Pacific region in the foreseeable future. In this region, Japan has excelled in its economic performance. For its own economic prosperity and for the sake of neighbouring countries, Japan is required to assume an appropriate role as economic leader.

The Republic of Korea will take an active part in internationalization, pursuing self-reliance in science and technology only in accordance with principles of interdependence. This interdependence will be realized in open competition and complementary cooperation. In this way, the country will both contribute to and benefit from the forthcoming Pacific Era.

At the same time, NIC and developing countries in the region should also be prepared to play a role. These countries have great potential if they can coordinate their efforts. With its relatively fresh experience of industrialization, the Republic of Korea may be able to provide some important lessons for countries with similar development goals. Cooperation with those countries will yield mutual benefits.

Japan is expected to be a valuable source of advanced technology for the future of the Republic of Korea, and technological cooperation will prove beneficial for both. Oddly enough, without such cooperation, Japan will also find it difficult to assume the future technological leadership of the world.

A standing regional organization will be useful not only for the efficient exchange of technical information, but also for technology implementation among countries in the region. Such an organization could review policies for technology transfer. Equally important is the establishment of a training centre in science policy and research management. Productive cooperation can be accomplished by the nurturing of mutual comprehension and a common awareness.


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