[Viewpoint] Hit the ground running

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[Viewpoint] Hit the ground running

The entire world is facing difficulties in overcoming the worsening economy and unstable labor market. We could criticize those who caused the crisis with poor policies, but instead of energy-consuming debates, we should focus on more productive matters and promote measures that can secure competitiveness in all areas of society and the economy when the recovery arrives.

The international economy will certainly recover, and those that have prepared for the future amid difficulties will be reborn as strong countries. At a time when many countries are presenting diverse solutions for economic revival, we should not hold back on any necessary support, either.

First of all, the government should select 10 major projects that can create new products and technology within two years and support those projects. Why should it be within two years? Experts predict the economic recession will last for two years, and if we actively utilize our human resources during this period, we can achieve a variety of accomplishments such as developing new industries.

The United States was once driven into a corner by Japan during World War II, but it was able to overcome the crisis by developing B29 bombers, radars and atomic bombs that would have taken more than 10 years to develop in peacetime, rather than just the two to three years it actually took. This was the outcome of concentrated investment and the efforts of the U.S. that were aimed at victory.

Korea should also focus on producing innovative products that can bring about big ripple effects on the economy through cooperation among corporations, academia and research institutes under the guidance of a creative leadership.

The projects I personally prefer are “online electric automobiles” and “mobile harbors.” Online electric automobiles are an environment-friendly means of transportation that do not use large amounts of lithium, a limited underground resource, expensive large batteries that have to be changed every five years, or oil. These cars can be charged by underground electric cables running along the roads without actual contact, which reduces the cost of energy by one-third compared to electric cars with large batteries that need charging. Mobile harbors do not require large-scale investment to construct a pier with deep water and can greatly innovate the marine transport system by creating an effective logistics system.

Such projects will have extremely big ripple effects on energy, the environment and the economy. If 50 percent of all automobiles on the road are to be changed to electric vehicles, it will be necessary to build two more nuclear power plants to supply power to the vehicles. On the other hand, however, we can save around $3 billion worth of oil annually. We can also create and lead a new international market for electric vehicles and related infrastructure. Exports of electric vehicles will exceed that of current automobile exports in a big way, and the expected effect on national health cannot be converted into money. As we can export nuclear power plants to countries that need electricity, the economic ripple effect will be huge.

If corporations, academia and research institutes cooperate organically under a clear goal, innovative products can be produced in two to three years. Each project needs a clear goal and a top-down systematic approach consisting of many different teams linked organically together. It will be possible for us to succeed if everyone works hard under strong leadership and effective technical management. The results will have a positive effect on the entire country, stimulating new industries and laying a foundation to be an economic power of the 21st century.

With focused investment, innovation and sacrificial efforts, the country can accomplish continuous growth. Now is the time to take action, not only to overcome the crisis, but also to provide a new growth engine.

*The writer is the president of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Suh Nam-pyo
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