Everything that Korea has used to build itself up to this point has been non-original technology. Although Korean companies can arguably be said to be the market leaders of the LED display industry, the original research and development of LED display panels was done in US universities and laboratories over 30 years ago. And even though Korea is currently said to be the most wired nation with broadband Internet penetration at over 51% per capita, the Internet and broadband technology also originated abroad.
To get to the next level in economic and technological development Korea must stop importing ideas and create some of its own. However, there seems to be a lack of innovation in the peninsula. One solid market indicator of innovation would be software development. Since each program developed by software companies is basically an entirely new idea on its own, it requires a large number of innovative minds to create each program. However, Korea's software industry is in its infancy compared to that of Israel, a country with 1/10th the population. At the largest US computer trade show in 2006, Comdex, more than 50 Israeli software companies attended. In contrast, the Korea Software Industry Association only lists 28 companies as its total membership.
There are several solid benefits that innovation brings. To put it simply, a new idea will make a great many people rich, due to healthy patent laws throughout most of the world. From first marketing of a new product, to selling licensing agreements to third parties, to possible royalty agreements, the money just keeps coming in. The parade of multimillion dollar companies who have made a fortune on new ideas is long, flashy, and full of large corporate headquarters -- Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, Apple, -- the list goes on and on.
How can Korea create innovation in its economy One eminently traditional way to encourage innovation is cash money rewards. The Korean government could set up a grant program to reward innovators in the information technology field which would give investment capital to new, innovative technology companies. This would encourage innovation in the field, watering the seeds of tomorrow's technological harvest. This requires putting real-world prices on intangible and untested ideas, and is a little risky. But the example of other economies shows that supporting innovative and original ideas brings a huge payoff in the medium and long term.
Let Korea create its own wealth, as the saying goes, and it will indisputably become number one in the IT industry.