This is part of the KAIST Terman Report.

Survey Report
on the Establishment of the
Korea Advanced Institute of Science

Donald L. Benedict
KunMo Chung
Franklin A. Long
Thomas L. Martin
Frederick E. Terman, Chairman

Prepared for
US Agency for International Development
December 1970

Chapter 1

Korean Economic Development and Korean Education
in Engineering and Applied Science

Korean Economic Development

Korea [1] is rapidly becoming a medium-sized, modern industrialized nation. Its population is now about 32 million. Its gross national product (GNP) in constant 1965 dollars has expanded from $2.3 billion in 1959 to $6.1 billion in 1969; in the same period, per capita income grew from $95 to $196, while exports went from $20 million to $50 million. During the year 1969, Korean economy continued to grow vigorously, as indicated by a GNP growth rate of 15.9%, an industrial production increase of 21.3%, and a commodity export increase of 34.5% [2]. Much credit for this progress toward a self-sustaining economy is due to successive five-year national economic plans started in 1962 by the present Korean government, which has provided a stable socio-economic environment in Korea during the last decade.

Encouraged by these results, the Korean government is now actively developing a third five-year economic plan in which earlier gains will be consolidated and expanded [3]. One of the most important objectives is a major strengthening of the science and technology that supports the science-based industries which increasingly characterize Korea's expanding economy.

Science and Technology in Korea

Developing nations look toward education and toward science and technology to provide the motive power for their economic development, and Korea is no exception. Under the first five-year plan, Korea worked for a 100% literate population. Under the current five-year plan, a concentrated effort toward technical training is being carried out to balance the traditional emphasis on cultural training. In the next five-year plan, a concentrated effort toward technical training is being carried out to balance the traditional emphasis on cultural training. In the next five-year plan, which will start in 1872, technical competence at advanced levels is being given top priority. In this connecction, the Korean government has in recent years been building the necessary foundation for this next step by systematically developing new support instituions in the area of science and technology.

The Korea Scientific and Technological Information Center (KORSTIC) was the first of these new institutions. It was established in 1962 as a government-funded, independent organization to collect domestic and foreign scientific information for the benefit of any user in Korea.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) was established in 1966 with aid from the American government. KIST is an independent, non-for-profit research organization which carries out research and development work for Korean industry and the Korean government. By providing excellent facilities and attractive working conditions, including a realistic salary scale and conveniently located modern apartments for its staff, KIST has been able to recruit a highly trained staff, including 53 holders of PhD degrees. Included among these are a number of Korean scientists and engineers who had been working abroad; subsequently, numerous other expatriate Koreans have indicated an interest in positions at KIST. Already within its brief operating life, KIST has demonstrated its value by completing several useful feasibility studies of industrial undertakings and successfully carrying out a number of significant research and development projects. KIST spearheads the modernization of the Korean scientific and technical environment, and the growing success of this institution symbolizes the industrialization of Korea.

The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) was established in 1967 to coordinate the overall governmental effort in science and technology. As soon as it was established, MOST drew up a comprehensive master plan for the development of science and technology in Korea during the twenty-year period from 1967 to 1986 [4]. Recognizing the fact that Korea has acquired almost all of its technical know-how from abroad (thus during the 1950-61 period, $100 million was spent on such non-hardware items as licenses, fees and training), and that home-grown technical know-how is vital for continued development of advanced industries, the plan calls for an intensive effort on the part of Korea to strengthen the technological base of its industries. In this connection, MOST has made a projection of long-term manpower requirements for the period 1967-86, [5] and is establishing appropriate development plans to meeet the indicated manpower needs.

Korean Education in Science and Engineering

Korea has an extensive system of higher education, and offers undergraduate instruction in the usual fields of science and engineering at a total of 30 institutions. In 1968-69, 4,863 BS degress were awarded in science and engineering. About two-thirds of these were in engineering, corresponding to an annual output of approximately 100 BS engineers per million people; this is to be compared with approximately 20 BS engineers per million people produced in the United States, and appears adequate in numbers to meet Korea's needs.

While the quality of BS students varies greatly between the best and poorest Korean schools, it is clear from the performance of Korea students enrolled in the graduate divisions of U.S. institutions that the better science and engineering graduates of the better Korean colleges have had an adequate undergraduate trianing.

At the same time, there are obvious weaknesses in the Korea undergraduate programs in science and engineering, even at the best Korean universities. Laboratory facilities are very inadequate by western standards, and the amount of laboatory instruction is relatively small. Students are typically taught to memorize what is in their textbooks, with the result that the training is heavily theoretical, with minimum attention given to the application of this knowledge to real problems. Engineering professors typically have had no industrial experience, and have little knowledge of the living world of engineering that exists in industry outside the campus. In addition, amny Korean faculty members lack adequate training in modern science and engineering and have seldom had an opportunity to update their knowlege. These factors, combined with the slow turnover in faculty which has been characteristic of the past two decades, has caused undergraduate eeudcation in science and engineering to lag behind the needs of the dynamic and rapidly developing Korean industrial economy.

At the graduate level, education in science and engineering in the U.S. sense is almost entirely lacking in Korea. To begin with, there is realtively little graduate instruction being carried on, and what there is is highly fragmented. Thus at one of the best schools, Seoul National University, the quote for engineering students entering the MS program is 40 per year, and these students are distributed among 11 major fields of engineering. In 1968-69 there were 600 graduate students in science and engineering working for the MS degree in Korea; 302 of these were in engineering. These 600 students were distributed among 152 departments in 22 schools. With such small numbers of students per curriculum at a given school, it is imposslble to provide properly organized programs of graduate study. Moreover, the equipment necessary for advanced instruction is lacking, and many professors have only limited experience and qualifications for graduate level instruction and research. Financial support for graduate students is totally inadequate. Again, what graduate work is carried on is strongly oriented toward training scholars for entering academic life, or toward providing students with the credentials that will enable them to go abroad for further study.

As a result of these factors, the Korean graduate schools in science and engineering have had little, if any, impact on the Korean economy. In fact, industrial spokesmen doubt that MS graduates from existing Korean schools are significantly better prepared for industrial work than are BS graduates. This situation is reflected in starting salaries for engineers in industry, which are reported to be typically the same for holders of MS degrees from Korean schools as for BS graduates.

Foreign Training

Because of the lack of well functioning graduate programs in Korea and also because financial support for graduate students is more available to Korean students in the U.S. than in Korea, a large number of college graduates in science and engineering (451 in 1968) leave Korea every year for the U.S. and other developed nations to obtain graduate training. Only a small fraction of these return to Korean, with the result that in 1968 there were over 2,000 Korean scientists and engineers living abroad.

Even if a substantial fraction of the Korean students who now go abroad for advanced studies could be induced to return to Korea, foreign training has limitations as far as advancing Korean industry is concerned. Foreign training tends to be oriented toward the conditions in the developed nations, instead of the situation existing in Korea. Again, foreign training does not reflect the nature and special problems of Korean industry, and cannot provide the close collaboration with local industry that is required for rapid and effective response to Korea's industrial needs.

Foreign training is also relatively expensive and consumes scarce foreign exchange. Short-term intensive foreign training such as is often sponsored by private industries and the government is even more expensive, and has the further disadvantage that it is typically rather specialized in character and so does not provide the base needed to give independent, indigenous strength to Korean industry.

While foreign training has provided the minimum level of skilled manpower required in the initial development of Korean industry, and will continue to be essential in many specalized areas, a self-sustained Korean economy needs a local supply of high quality scientific and engineering manpower for its maturing industry.