SEOUL, March 30 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea maintains its lead as the world’s largest investor in research and development (R&D) for its economic size but still has a long way to go to compete with the U.S. and Japan, the government said Wednesday.
By amount, South Korea came in sixth with US$60.5 billion. Driven by rising industrial investment, Asia’s fourth-largest economy aims to use at least 5 percent of its GDP by 2017.
However, the nation’s cumulative spending on R&D is far behind those of the U.S., Japan and other advanced countries.
The U.S. and Japan have invested more than 2 percent of their GDP in R&D since the 1980s, while South Korea attained the 2-percent level in 1994.
“There is still a big gap in accumulated spending between South Korea and advanced nations,” said the ministry.
If South Korea’s total investment from 1981-2013 is put at 1, those of the U.S. and Japan are 15.4 and 7.4, respectively, it added.
The ministry emphasized the need for the expansion of “stable and effective” R&D investment by both the government and the private sector.
“The government plans to keep pushing for R&D innovation,” Choi Jong-bae, chief of the ministry’s science and technology strategy office, told reporters. “In particular, we will place a focus on enhancing the quality of R&D on the basis of creative and challenge-oriented study.”
The government released the data in a bid to raise public awareness about the level of the country’s science and technology, as it marks “Science Month” in April.
Meanwhile, the government plans to spend nearly 1 trillion won (US$860 million) this year alone to support the development of a “future growth engine.”
It will concentrate the investment on 19 selected fields including 5G mobile communication systems, smart cars, virtual reality devices, the Internet of Things, high-performing drones, intelligent robots and Big Data.
The plan, approved of by a related special committee of the National Science & Technology Council, is part of a South Korean project to invest 5.6 trillion won by 2020 in efforts to promote new industries.
Heavily dependent on exports, South Korea’s economy has traditionally boasted of advantages in such businesses as automobiles, electronics and shipbuilding.
Concern has grown, however, about the next driver of its economic growth.