Where are Korea's Einsteins?
Where are Korea's Einsteins?
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  • 승인 2006.05.01 12:01
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Editorial It is interesting to note that according to the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), while Korea's technological competitiveness ranks second in the world, it is only 15th ranked in science competitiveness and in terms of overall national competitiveness, it was only in 29th place in 2005.
We are encouraged by the announcement by Kim woo-sik, the Deputy Prime Minister as well as the Minister of Science and Technology that he will strive to strengthen the country's science technology competitiveness and in the popularization of science skills. He is also reported to have promised to focus on specializing and increasing the efficiency of science skills and strategic use of scientific resources through globalization. This will include upgrading the level of planning, mediating and evaluating the system of science-related policies for more specific applications. In addition, to popularizing science skills among the younger generation and promoting its application in daily life, he plans to expand the science culture, strengthen responsibility for nurturing science skills, and effectively harnessing Korea's scientific manpower. We certainly wish the Prime Minister good luck in realizing these ambitious goals, but it is a fact that the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has been churning out fewer and fewer scientists and engineers - although up until the mid- 1990s, the number of holders of doctorate and masters degrees was growing, but since then there has been a steady decline. According to an estimate by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the country's shortage of hitech manpower possessing engineering or science Ph.D.s will reach nearly 7,000 by 2007 and almost 11,000 by 2010. Korea's critical shortage of science and engineering personnel has been growing due to the exodus of young, highly- trained Koreans who are seeking overseas employment options out of fear of layoffs since the 1997 financial crisis. KAIST seems to be embroiled in a leadership crisis following the Korean government's disastrous appointment two years ago of an American Nobel physics laureate Robert Laughlin, in an effort to transform the jaded learning institution into a globallycompetitive university. According to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), which publishes the Science Citation Index (SCI), a measure of the level of technology and research capability, Korea ranked 14th in the world in 2003 (18,635 articles), lagging far behind the United States (274,159) and Japan (75,139), and Korea is at about the 46 percent level compared with China. The nation's leading academic institution, Seoul National University, ranked only 35th in the world, lagging far behind the likes of Harvard, Tokyo University and UCLA. As a Confucian-oriented country, which regards education as a cherished virtue, the SCI is an embarrassing but valuable report highlighting the deficiencies in the Korean higher education system. Korea's IT industry, and particularly its laggard software industry, cannot grow and be globally competitive without a strong science education infrastructure that can churn out sufficient well-qualified scientists to meet the nation's needs for the knowledge economy of the 21st Century. For Korea to stay in the league of advanced technology nations, much more needs to be done to develop science in its entirety. Without sufficient scientists, Korea's research and development (R&D) capacity will inevitably come to depend more and more on overseas expertise.

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