Foster the testing and certification industry

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Foster the testing and certification industry

Global safety and quality assessment companies date back to a time when European imperial powers were at their peak. In the 1800s, European ships, including with those flying the Union Jack, dotted all over the ocean with the purpose of finding new opportunities of commerce, particularly through establishing colonies in the rest of the world. For all this, ships had to be designed with the highest attention to a sound structural integrity and built by people who had superb craftsmanship with materials strong enough to endure months of sailing and occasional storms, and maintenance of ships in their best condition was also critical.

But once in a while, ships sank just due to poor design and quality control, not to mention heavy storms. To provide protection from risks of this kind, insurance was spontaneously put to use, rendering information on the state of ships and equipment essential to set proper premiums. It is how one of largest global safety and quality assessment companies started their business. European dominance over the world might not be explained without taking notice of the contribution that had been made by them. Now they have become global powers in the area of safety and quality assessment covering all industries, furthermore coming to create one industry sector under the service industry in their homeland far beyond a traditional passive role as a simple helper of other industries.

When it comes to the situation in our country, the history of local safety and quality assessment companies does not go over half a century, barely more than a third that of European counterparts. Their service coverage is mostly restricted to one or two industries and a single country, which is in a sharp contrast with global leaders who have labs and offices all around the world and provide services over all industries. To make things worse, major European players have already entered our soil for their business, threatening the local testing and certification industry at fledging stage. In fact, the term “testing and certification industry” is not even recognized yet.

As we have seen from the example of European safety and quality assessment companies, the rapid growth of the local testing and certification industry needs to be encouraged in two aspects: not only can it help other industries more developed in terms of producing safer and higher quality of goods and services but also help itself grown big enough to be positioned as one industry sector. Subsequently this could lead to a wider spectrum and more developed form of national industries. Unlike manufacturing industries, the testing and certification industry is able to create lots of employment as a typical example of knowledge service industry because it intrinsically depends on people for its core and main activities such as assessment, analysis and audit.

Having travelled abroad a few times in my early career of overseas business, I was surprised to see and was proud of Korea’s manufacturing brands covering major international airports and cities. What a remarkable success story, particularly when taking into account that Koreans started with their bare hands amid strewn debris after the Korean War in 1953. What made them so successful? No doubt, entrepreneurs deserve recognition despite irregularities during an era of rapid development, which could be unavoidable to some extent as they are the kind of steps we needed to go through towards higher grounds of economic development. But they were never all entrepreneur’s efforts. Their success could not have been achieved without government’s well-coordinated leadership and support and Korean sacrifice over a long period of time.

Now is the time that service industry should take the baton as a main economic driving force, from the manufacturing industries in a series of economic development to the knowledge service industry, which can play a leading role in that process, contributing to increased employment and eventually a better society where work and social security are in balance. But in order to realize this from the fledging stage, government’s leadership and support is as strongly required as had been shown in the manufacturing sector in the past decades.

by JG Kim, Researcher at FITI Testing & Research Institute
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