Flexible innovation

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Flexible innovation


An old adage in Korean college admissions goes that the country’s best students go to medical school, while the second-best go to Seoul National University’s engineering school. In liberal arts, teachers’ colleges where graduates train to become elementary school teachers have become popular. Some students even prepare for admission to teachers’ colleges after getting into a top school.

A friend told me that many college students these days are interested in going to law school or taking the civil service exam, while liberal arts professors have lost the drive to teach their fields of study. He might be exaggerating, but this is not new.

According to data from Statistics Korea, the preferred workplaces for people aged 13 to 29 were government agencies (25.4 percent), public corporations (19.9 percent) and major conglomerates (15.1 percent).

Only 2.9 percent said start-ups and 3.7 percent said small and medium-sized companies. It is only natural that the young people seek stable employment. The Moon Jae-in administration wants to add more public jobs, and they don’t want to miss the opportunity.

The roles of public servants and teachers are very important, but they do not create wealth. It is businesses that generate profit. The current administration’s innovative growth drive is to supply venture capital to new companies and invest 10 trillion won ($9 billion) in a fund for three years.

The goal is to establish an investment bank that can be a Korean version of Goldman Sachs so that venture capital can be invested on innovative companies. But no matter how big the venture capital is, it is useless without people taking risks in new start-ups. Making rash investment to execute the government policy will only incur losses.

At the Blue House’s innovative growth strategy meeting on Nov. 28, President Moon asked for clear vision and speed in innovative growth. I agree with his point. At the meeting, Kim Sang-gon, the minister of education, presented a talent development support plan that includes enhanced education in computer programming, flexible semesters and convergence education.

As a parent, I saw my child experience a flexible semester in middle school, but I do not believe it helped with career exploration. All my child did was take one final exam and make a few field trips.

The government wants to strengthen computer science education, but I have fundamental doubts about whether proper education can be provided by retraining existing teachers. Education should be made available through community resources and not be left solely to teachers. Outsourcing convergence education and computer science education should be considered.

And what about the popularity of public jobs? Why can’t entrepreneurs become public servants and teachers? Innovation requires flexibility. If flexibility is ignored, innovative growth might be a long ways off.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 1, Page 34

*The author is deputy business editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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