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close this bookTechnological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)
close this folder3. The Republic of Korea
View the documentPreamble
View the documentHistory
View the documentDevelopment policies and strategies from the 1960s to the 1980s
View the documentThe plans
View the documentImpact on the agricultural and industrial sectors
View the documentScience and technology in korea before the 1960s
View the documentThe role of science and technology in recent development
View the documentScience and technology and the exogenous environment
View the documentEducation and training
View the documentResearch and development
View the documentReassessment of the policy and strategy
View the documentAchievements in industrial development
View the documentThe electronics industry as a case-study
View the documentSelf-reliance targets at each stage
View the documentProblems and issues
View the documentFuture plan for self-reliance of science and technology
View the documentThe long-term goals and strategy of national development
View the documentRole of science and technology for future development
View the documentLong-term goal of S&T development
View the documentSumming-up and regional cooperation
View the documentRegional cooperation
View the documentBibliography

Science and technology in korea before the 1960s

The introduction of Western culture and technology to Korea began around 1880. Until 1910, the introduction of modern technology was dominated by Japan and the Western powers. Some technologies in small arms, explosives, agriculture, paper, mining, printing, leather goods, communications, and railroads were introduced from Japan, the US, Germany, and Russia. Electricity was introduced from the US in 1898. The first scientific institution was the Industrial Research Institute, founded in 1883.

Under their rule, the Japanese introduced, between 1910 and 1945, Western technology on a large scale. During this period hydroelectric power, fertilizers, cement, textiles, and steel industries developed, along with a general consumer goods industry. But the development of industry was determined by the Japanese strategy for controlling the Far East and preparing for the Second World War, with a main emphasis on mining and transportation.

The production of crude and semi-processed agricultural and mineral products was intended for export to Japan and its other colonies. Manufacturing during the colonial period also had a heavy Japanese imprint with regard to the capital equipment, entrepreneurs, engineers, and technicians involved, and even the labour, particularly skilled labour.

Steady progress was made during this time in the education system. The first modern university was established under Japanese rule in 1924, while the first college of engineering was set up in 1938. How ever, a strict ratio between Korean and Japanese students severely restricted Korean participation. By 1945, only 800 Koreans had graduated, of which 300 were from the Medical School and about 40 from the School of Science and Engineering. After independence, education, including technical and higher education, was sharply accelerated. During this colonial period, Koreans acquired mostly on-the-job knowledge of the operation of modern industries.

Industrial development during the Japanese period, it should be noted, was concentrated in the North. So, when Korea was divided into North and South after the Second World War, there was almost no heavy industry in South Korea.

After the end of Japanese colonialism, the relationship with the United States served to augment Korean resources, both directly and indirectly, especially in the formation of human capital. American aid directly contributed to the rapid expansion of education, which by 1960 led to universal primary education and nearly universal adult literacy, while contributing to increasingly higher enrolment rates at all grade levels above the primary. Aid also financed the overseas education and training of thousands of Koreans.

An indirect contribution, because of universal military service, was made by American military advisers. The Korean military learnt modern concepts and techniques of management and organization. For the labour force, military service was an important source of skill formation, similar to training in modern industry. An important channel of industrial technology was technical advisers.