This report examines the political, economic, demographic, and other factors that are brought to bear on South Korea’s industrial and innovation policies. The analysis explores South Korea’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to show that both governance and socio-economic factors play an important role in determining how well a country is able to use its endowments to create a strong national innovation system. Recent policies suggest the government and private sector leaders in South Korea are
transitioning from technology and commercialization-driven research and development (R&D) toward more ambitious, long-term, and transformational science, with emphasis in energy efficiency, space and defense technologies, and high-energy physics.
Increasing the government’s long-term (technology agnostic) investments in basic science R&D, raising the standards of universities, and emphasizing global collaborations will go a long way toward realizing South Korea’s vision for a knowledge-based economy, but only if paired with an increased tolerance for risk taking.