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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

Research and development

A turning-point in Korean S&T was the establishment in 1966 of the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). It was founded to provide technological assistance to the heavy, chemical, and other export industries. Since then, through the 1970s, about 10 specialized industrial research institutes were established, many being spin-offs from KIST. In 1971, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science (KAIS) was established as a postgraduate school in applied sciences and engineering to supply high-quality scientists.

The financial and technical support of the United States made the establishment of KIST possible. But it was in 1969 that KIST actually began to perform R&D. All the research institutes established since then have followed the pattern of KIST, and the Korean government has also made great efforts to repatriate Korean scientists from abroad and to utilize them in adapting and improving imported technologies. To repatriate these scientists, special incentives were provided and the autonomy of research activities, as well as their financial support by the government, was assured.

During the 1970s, the growth stage of Korean industrialization, an emphasis was placed on fostering industries with higher-level technologies. The government had selected six strategic industries: steel, machines, shipbuilding, electronics, petrochemicals, and non-ferrous metals. KIST had performed R&D in these fields until the mid-1970s but could not effectively meet their massive future technology demands. In 1974, therefore, the government enacted a law establishing specialized government-supported research institutes which would provide technology assistance to strategic industries. In the second half of the 1970s, a series of such specialized research institutes was established, each institute being financially supported through a relevant ministry.

Some of the specialized research institutes were spin-offs from KIST and some were reorganized from existing public research institutes to enhance the flexibility and efficiency of R&D activities. Until the 1980s, these specialized institutes would spend most of their efforts in establishing research systems, rather than in actually doing R&D. Serious efforts were made to improve imported as well as existing technologies, and to supply qualified scientists and engineers, educating and training them to meet the industrial needs of field-related problem-solving.

During the 1970s the creation of a favourable environment for scientific activities was another major objective. To achieve this, the general awareness of the importance of S&T was increased and "scientific thought patterns" promoted. Educational activities along these lines were also emphasized by the Korean government and educational institutions.

In the 1980s, the Republic of Korea had to compete with developed countries in some high-technology industries. To succeed in such competition, R&D systems in Korea had to be reorganized into a more efficient and harmonious whole. In 1980, therefore, the government merged 16 research institutes to create nine new ones. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) took responsibility for coordinating the R&D of the reorganized institutes. To make such coordination effective, MOST supported the financing of all of these institutes except the Korea Ginseng and Tobacco Research Institute, which is financially supported by the Office of Monopoly.

Since 1982, national projects have been carried out to compete internationally in the development of high technology. The two main categories of national projects are Government Projects and Government-Industry Joint Projects. During the period from 1982 to 1984, 214 Government Projects were conducted and 38 billion won was spent on them. Three hundred and forty-five Government-Industry Joint Projects were carried out during the same period, financed by industry to the tune of 17 billion won. These projects have contributed significantly to the sharp increase in the R&D expenditures of government-sponsored research institutes. The government budget for national projects has been increasing, and reached 30 billion won in 1985 and 50 billion won in 1986.

Table 3 shows the financial support made to R&D institutes by the government during the 1982-1985 period. For each year during this period the total spent amounted to 35-40 per cent of the government's budget for the field of S&T - a proportion that is much higher than before the reorganization of R&D systems in 1980. If we include the budget of the government-financed research projects carried out by these research institutes, the proportion in each year of the 1982-1985 period amounted to 42-49 per cent.

Table 3. Financial support of research institutes by the government (millions of won)





Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology





Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute





Systems Engineering Research Institute





Korea Advanced Energy Research Institute





Korea Institute of Energy and Resources





Korea Standards Research Institute





Korea Institute of Machinery and Metals





Electronics and Telecom Research Institute





Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology





Korea Ginseng and Tobacco Research Institute










Source: MOST, Statistical Year Book of Science and Technology, 1984.