[EDITORIALS]More research neededThe National Science & Technology Council reported that Korea ranks in the middle in the world in terms of technological strength, and information technology is Korea’s lone advanced technology. What’s striking is that China is only 1.7 years behind Korea in technological competence. If it continues to ignore research and development, the council said, Korea would lose to China in technology within five years. It turns out that Korea’s catchphrase of becoming a technology leader has been in vain.
The current situation is a consequence of Korea’s own deeds. The government and industries all called for research and development, but the amount of R&D spending has never been sufficient. Korea’s annual R&D expenditures, 17 trillion won ($14 billion), are far behind those of developed countries, and the government accounts for 26 percent of the yearly spending. That ranks below the average of 32 percent in countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. During the 1997-98 financial crisis, businesses and research institutions first fired scientists and engineers. Government ministries have been competing with each other to take the lead in technological development for the 10 most promising industries. In contrast, the Chinese government spared no efforts, took the lead in nurturing an environment for R&D and employed talented foreign researchers. As seen in the bidding for Ssangyong Motor Co. by Chinese companies, China has pushed globalization to absorb advanced technologies.
The Institute for Industrial Policy Studies said recently that Korea ranks 25th in national competitiveness among 68 major countries, with China closing in fast.
Developed countries no longer sell technology and are more reluctant to transfer it. We need concentrated efforts in R&D in industries with good potential. The government must invest more in longer-term and riskier technologies. Regulations must be eased dramatically to attract foreign investment and adopt their technology. Without R&D, we are far from an advanced country.