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Park hopes to transform Korea into start-up nation

Publication Date : 04-01-2013

 

South Korea has entered a period of low growth. A slew of analysts say it is heading in a direction similar to Japan’s “Lost Decade”.

With 1 per cent growth coupled with the global economy facing further slowdown in 2013, the outlook for Korean exports, the country’s main source of growth, is not looking rosy.

President-elect Park Geun-hye, who has an engineering background, sees a need to overcome future economic maelstroms by prioritising job creation through science and technology.

Her policy on growth relies on innovation, technology convergence and creativity, while encouraging the young, scientists and engineers to take on risks and challenges.

In all aspects, her S&T policy focuses on transforming Korea into a start-up nation, not for the sake of achieving higher gross domestic product, but job growth that can eventually help boost public welfare.

Park is banking on job creation to improve living standards, and start-ups backed by creative science and technology are a big part of her plans to realise it.

“Science and technology must contribute to the well-being of people,” Park’s policy paper said. “We must change and pursue new growth based on creativity that can help people achieve happiness.”

Park did not share her goals with the public on GDP targets like President Lee Myung-bak did with his 747 pledge ― 7 per cent annual growth, $40,000 national income and 7th largest economy ― which was often questioned for its feasibility.

Her policy has been appraised as straightforward and realistic in a similar way to Israel, which puts priority on R&D projects and start-ups for sustainable growth.

“The development of science and start-ups are closely related as they are both fields involving making new discoveries while taking risks over an extended period,” said Lee Kong-rae, professor of Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology.

At the same time, this should help the country secure a future growth engine, and transform Korea into “first mover” from a “fast follower”, he added.

Park’s plans for “Start-up Korea” focus on promoting software and content which a wide range of industries from agriculture to media, and even the general public, can use for business or information.

Park seeks to boost financial support for start-ups and funds that invest in tech firms and content projects, while promoting mergers and acquisitions that can provide a source of financing for small companies.

In addition to establishing control towers to oversee the implementation of science and tech convergence policies, the president-elect plans to overhaul the country’s research environment and system by increasing its budget for studies in fundamental science, as well as improving welfare for scientists.

Park reiterated that this must all lead to job creation to boost Korea’s employment rate for people aged between 15 and 64 to 70 per cent in five years, from about 60 per cent currently.

“I will pursue a policy that aims to increase the job rate over growth rate,” Park said.

 

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