|Technological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)|
|3. The Republic of Korea|
New technologies such as information technology and biotechnology are transforming the structure of industrial countries, and information technology is replacing mental labour by humans. Rapid progress and wide application of genetic engineering is expected to open a new era of prosperity for the world in the twenty-first century. Another breakthrough is the development of new materials such as fine ceramics.
These technologies are being developed at a very fast rate. The innovation rate for previous technologies did not generally exceed that of a business cycle, but the speed of major modern technological innovations, particularly semiconductors and computers, is often faster than this, causing an observable disturbance in market equilibrium. The implication is that technology can no longer be treated as a residual variable in understanding the economic behaviour of relevant industries. It is now to be understood as a major factor in economics.
There are also important differences in the development of such technologies. First, the life cycle of technological innovation, from basic research to product development, has been considerably shortened. Second, major innovations are now often the work of teams of many researchers. Third, the technology requires a multidisciplinary approach integrating many related "unit technologies."
The new technology is also changing the mass production system to one where many kinds of goods are produced in small quantities to meet the changing demands of consumers. Owing to the high risk and large investment involved in the new technologies, it is not likely that one country will become the leader in a wide spectrum of important technologies.
Through the application of high technology to existing industries, such as the automation of the textile and garment industries, developed countries will probably regain their comparative advantages in labour-intensive industries. Consequently the international division of production will no longer be based upon labour and capital alone, but on a new foundation centred around technology.
In this rapidly changing technological environment, developing countries such as the Republic of Korea are left with the very narrow option of developing a few selected technological areas to the level of advanced countries. For this reason, Korea has prepared the report "Long-term Perspectives for Science and Technology Development to the Year 2000."