|Technological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)|
|3. The Republic of Korea|
Self-reliance in science and technology (S&T) is defined here as the potential capacity to innovate and adapt either existing or new technologies. This definition assumes that a country has technology demands which vary according to its economic and social condition. The technology that is needed can be either obtained domestically or imported. In the latter case, the technology is bought because it is cheaper to import it than to generate it in the local environment. This also implies that a given society has the potential locally to obtain previously imported technology, at a production cost not very much higher than the import price, if importing turns out to be impossible.
A society pursuing self-reliance in S&T would also normally trade technologies with other societies, and may in fact have a trade deficit. The society maintains the deficit and begins to provide itself with the technology it needs.
The S&T in focus here includes not only technology but also scientific knowledge and know-how. In other words, self-reliance aims at achieving self-sufficiency across the whole spectrum, ranging from basic scientific knowledge, which is easily available from professional journals, to on-the-spot application methods that are imported if needed for use in a short span of time.
This definition of self-reliance in S&T assumes that developed economies are close to being self-reliant, while developing economies are not. But among developing economies, the degree of self-insufficiency may vary depending on the condition of the particular economy. A rapidly growing economy will have a lower degree of self-reliance than a stagnating economy, not because its supply capacity is limited, but because its demands expand faster than the available supply.
The acquisition of technology can be divided into four different stages as follows: (1) operation, maintenance, and repair; (2) imitation and modification of foreign technology; (3) design; and (4) mass manufacturing based on independent design.
The discussions below on the Korean experiences assume the above background of S&T self-reliance.