Park has big plans for new start-up ministry

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Park has big plans for new start-up ministry

Park Seong-jin, the mechanical engineering professor tapped to lead the new Ministry of SMEs and Startups, issued his first statement since his nomination last week, saying in an email Monday that industrial changes wrought by technology like robots and artificial intelligence pose both a threat and challenge for Korea.

“Our country has all the conditions - talent, high levels of education and research and an ICT infrastructure - to be a test bed,” Park said, “and if we utilize them, I believe our country could grow to become the wealthiest country in the world.”

If his nomination passes, Park will be the last minister to join the cabinet of Moon Jae-in, who was elected president in May. He will be leading a ministry tasked with supporting the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.

Previously, the ministry was an agency under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, but Moon promoted it to the cabinet level at the end of June in hopes of strengthening policies for small businesses in the face of rapid technological advances.

“As the last person to come onboard the Moon administration, I will do my best so that the Ministry of SMEs and Startups can create new growth momentum,” Park said, “and raise the competitiveness of SMEs and technology start-ups.”

Park also made reference to the fourth industrial revolution, calling it a “crisis and opportunity.”

The email was the first public statement that the engineering professor made since the Blue House announced his nomination on Thursday. In it, Park shared the struggles he faced while running a start-up as proof of his ability to lead the ministry.

Park obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the Pohang University of Science and Technology and now teaches there. The professor said he owed his academic success to people around him who were willing to share their skills and expertise, but found that life outside school was a bit less charitable.

“I wanted to apply the results of my research in the field, but the field was different,” Park said. “There was a huge difference between research activities and the engineering applied in actual production.”

He noted the competition among start-ups was fierce. “I was naive thinking that success was just in front of me,” Park said. “Reality was different. The company’s cash soon depleted, and my family and I had to endure six months without any income while we were living in the United States.”

After a stint researching and teaching in the United States, Park returned to his alma mater in 2009, and now, he said, “I feel the heavy responsibility of being called to serve my country.”

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