Korea looks 'up-market' toward high technology

Technology and more technology is the launch pad for what Koreans are calling the ''second economic takeoff.''

The Science and Technology Ministry has announced plans to establish research institutes and technology-intensive companies overseas, or buy institutions already in operation, to achieve an industrial renovation.

Traditional labor-intensive industries like textiles (Korea's biggest export) and shoes (No. 4) still prosper but are reckoned to have only a few good years left.

As Korean labor costs rise, other less developed countries are pushing in at the bottom of the market. Like other countries, Korea sees its future in moving up-market into high technology.

Many big corporations have now established their own research institutes. But without government help the process of technological advancement would prove too cash- and time-consuming for most enterprises.

Science and Technology Ministry officials say, for example, that a research institute for chemical technology will be established in New Jersey within the year. By next year it will have a staff of 15 researchers, who will feed the results to private industry.

The Korean Institute of Electronic Technology plans to invest $1 million to expand a US-based design center for the development of semiconductors and integrated circuits.

Ministry sources said similar institutions will be established in other countries eventually so that Korea can attempt to catch up with the ever-advancing technology in such fields as fine chemistry, computers, mechanical automation, and genetic engineering.

Meanwhile, the Korea Industrial Technology Promotion Association (KITPA) has urged the government to increase financing of individual firms' research and development.

Forecasting that total cost of research by private industry in 1984 will surpass $700 million, KITPA said a large-scale central funding body should be established to coordinate funding activities now carried out through several official channels, like the Korea Development Bank and the Technology Development Corporation.

The organization said there was a need to open colleges and graduate schools specifically to train a core of highly qualified researchers who could be farmed out to deserving private companies.

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