[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Engineering is criticalKorea’s economy has developed rapildly over the last 30 years. The information technology industry is now very strong, and is a major force in the Korean economy.
For example, Samsung’s semiconductor technology is top-notch worldwide; Korea’s mobile phone technology is also very competitive. The country’s digital communications infrastructure, such as high-speed Internet connections, is among the fastest in the world.
Korea’s current industrial structure reflects many Koreans’ interest in learning engineering in the past 30 years.
But since the 1997 financial crisis, people have seen that engineering jobs are no more secure than other types of work as many engineers have been laid off during times of economic weakness. Therefore, many Koreans now prefer “safer” careers in medicine, law or academia.
As a result, engineering schools are no longer popular. Even many current engineering students want to transfer to medical school or law school. Graduate engineering programs are running into a serious “student shortage.”
This trend could be fatal to Korea in the long run. The country does not have a lot of natural resources, and should depend on the technology industry. If the lack of interest in engineering persists, the Korean economy will be in trouble.
The government should develop strong policies to solve the problem. For example, it should guarantee engineers’ job security. Many high-ranking government positions should be open to people with an engineering background. Engineering schools’ tuition fees should be waived. Moreover, every Korean must remember that engineering and technology will contribute to increasing the national wealth more than ever.
by Samuel Kim