New Book Explores Flourishing Asian Semiconductor Industry

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New Book Explores Flourishing Asian Semiconductor Industry

Professor Cho Dong-song is the co-author of a recently published English-language book entitled 'Tiger Technology: The Creation of a Semiconductor Industry in East Asia' (Cambridge University Press). Cho, who works in the Department of Business Administration of Seoul National University, wrote the book after completing five years of research with co-author Professor John A. Mash of McQuarie University in Sydney, Australia.

As indicated by the title, the book investigates the growth of the semiconductor industry in East Asia. However, the analysis it offers differs from those done in the past in its depth. Readers cannot fail to recognize that semiconductor markets in the area were studied intensively from the time that each country entered into the industry to the present. The historical context of the birth of the semiconductor industry is also explored and explained in several parts of the book.

The main nations covered in the book are South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. These four countries were late players in the industrialized world, modernizing rapidly since the Second World War. The book takes as its starting point the question of how these nations have become leaders of the global semiconductor market.

Professors Cho and Mash noticed that the four countries share two significant features: governmental enthusiasm for industrialization and strong government initiatives run independently of market demands. The countries used Japan, which had industrialized before them, as a bench mark. The governments acquired and distributed advanced semiconductor technologies through public-sector networks, while encouraging individual companies to invest in semiconductor industries.

However, each country adopted a different method of implementation. South Korea adopted the 'carrot and stick' method, giving companies both support and sanctions and developing government-led initiatives. In South Korea, the Samsung Corporation grew to be the world's largest D-RAM manufacturer after it adopted 'fast-track learning' in the decade until 1993, after entering the D-RAM semiconductor industry in 1983.

Thailand approached development differently. Here, while conglomerates led the country's industrial growth, many small- and medium-sized companies played a major role in the country's semiconductor industry. Heated competition between smaller firms resulted in the manufacture of diverse semiconductor products. Meanwhile, in Singapore the country took advantage of major foreign investors, including Hewlett Packard.

The authors point out that the short life and rapidly changing technologies of semiconductors also favor the industry's development in these countries. They assert that the model of success in these four countries should be applied to other countries hoping to become technological superpowers. The semiconductor industry is better suited to nations intending to start from stratch than to countries such as Britain which have for a long time relied on cumulative technologies.

by Jung Jae-wal

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