|Technological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)|
|7. The lessons from Asia: From past experience to the future|
The Republic of Korea's independent industrial development has occurred primarily since 1945, in three stages. These were: a period of instability from 1945 to 1953, taking in the Korean War; a reconstruction phase from 1954, with an emphasis on import substitution; and a period of accelerated growth since the 1960s, corresponding largely to a switch to an export-oriented strategy. The Korean economy has been developed through the implementation of a set of plans.
In the initial post-Second World War period, especially during the Korean War, there was an inflow of technology from the United States and the United Nations. Because of the Korean War, and universal military service, the military became an important channel of technology transfer, which exposed the population to a variety of modern machinery.
As the Korean economic emphasis shifted, so did its technology acquisition programme. In the 1960s, it centred on the acquisition of import-substitution technologies for consumer goods industries and export-oriented light industries. In the 1960s a primary emphasis was given to the import of advanced technologies for the industries then being set up. A law to attract technology through foreign capital facilitated this, after some initial difficulties.
With the growth of the economy, the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) was established in 1966 to give technological assistance to the heavy, chemical, and other export industries. This helped to digest and absorb imported technologies and also to bring back Korean scientists working abroad. In the 1970s, many specialized industrial research institutes were established, largely spin-offs from KIST. The adaptation and improvement of imported technology was a primary aim of S&T policy during the third Five-Year Plan (19721976) and the fourth Five-Year Plan (1977-1981).
By the 1980s, the Republic of Korea had developed her industrial infrastructure to a considerable extent and was now competing with developed countries in some high-technology industries. Unlike, say, India or China, Korea did not have a strong ideological emphasis on S&T, but its S&T system had grown up pragmatically and organically in keeping with the requirements of the economy. Over a few decades the country had built up a viable technological acquisition programme that in the 1990s was beginning to compete in some cutting-edge technologies.