[Viewpoint] Homebred tech neededThe launch of Korea’s first space rocket, Naro-1, was invaluable - we have gained so much from the experience.
From a technological viewpoint, we garnered knowledge and experience in space development from joint work with Russian scientists that will undoubtedly boost our own space technology.
Socially, public awareness and interest in the space program have been elevated through a highly publicized event. Witnessing history in the making, the public has realized that a country’s science and technology standard can greatly influence the national status quo.
National pride has kept the public applauding in support for the program despite a series of glitches and delays. In fact, upon learning that the satellite had failed to reach its proper orbit despite a successful liftoff, the public continued to encourage the scientists rather than reproach them, reflecting a mature social appreciation for scientific endeavor and toil regardless of the outcome.
Nevertheless, constant delays over a span of four years mortified many, because the delays mostly came from Russian scientists who had created the original technology. But countries lacking the patent rights to major technologies often have to swallow this kind of discomfort.
The wealth gap in technology is prevalent in the industrial world where companies from every corner of the globe battle for their corporate life every day. In the past, when laptop liquid-crystal screens were solely supplied by Japanese manufacturers, their shipment determined the number of laptop computers rolling off Korean electronics production lines.
A lion’s share of money made by cellular phones sold here goes to Qualcomm Inc., as payment for its patent rights to CDMA, or code division multiple access, a technology standard for cellular phones.
No scientific and technological achievement is truly worthwhile without harboring original technology or the capacity to produce the necessary parts.
More significant and extensively powerful than patents and parts in the technology world are international standards. An international standard for a particular technology serves as the benchmark global companies must follow in manufacturing products or providing related services spawned from the technology.
For a mobile phone to work in Korea as well as America, the two countries must agree on common wireless standards and manufacture their products accordingly.
International standards become more and more important as globalization sees people and goods travel more quickly and easily.
Advanced markets invest heavily in the field because they can earn huge benefits if their technology is commercialized and accepted as an international standard. So far, our companies have been busy rolling out products according to the standards required by multinational companies.
Korea only recently started to join the international consortium that decides on globally accepted standards, but its voice remains meek due to a scarcity in experience and patents for self-developed technology.
Without homegrown technology and standards, our place on the global stage will continue to be limited. Moreover, we are underdeveloped in homebred learning.
Many of our urgent issues are offshoots or associations with worldwide problems like global warming, the economic slowdown and a new economic order. But we often lack our own thoughts on these problems.
As result, we are swayed and led by logic argued by advanced markets. China in March launched a large-scale think tank called the China International Economic Exchange Center to establish and breed Chinese-style arguments and mantras on global issues.
Korea’s social science and natural science fields have begun to regret that we have been too dependent on foreign dogma and too lazy in developing our thoughts and offering input. In step with scientific and technologic advances, we must hurry to produce our own philosophy and logic.
China’s People’s Daily lamented that China is in a surplus with the United States in trade, but is running a deficit when it comes to original thoughts and theories.
The same can apply to us.
*The writer is a physics professor at Seoul National University.
by Oh Se-jung