Education / Industry
Koreans regard education as very important. In the process of industrialization, human resources emerged as an important factor in connection with the need to cope with scarce capital and resources more efficiently. Parents’ fervor regarding their children’s education has resulted in the production of a large number of well-educated people, which in turn has helped the country achieve rapid economic growth. The basic school system is composed of kindergarten (1 to 3 years), elementary school (6 years), middle school (3 years), high school (3 years), and university. There are also junior colleges (2 or 3 years) and graduate schools (for masters and PhD degrees). Since 2004, all South Koreans are required to finish middle school under compulsory education. Since 2013, the government has provided childcare allowances for all children aged up to five years.
High Educational Competitiveness
Thanks to a good system and the high regard for education, the country has many skilled people in virtually all sectors. Korea’s universities produce talented young people specializing in basic science, including physics, and other major sectors, such as electronics, mechanical engineering, business management, economics, and accounting. Many educated adults can make themselves understood in English, with some of them speaking another foreign language. At present, the widespread availability of vocational education sessions at high schools helps students obtain qualifications in specialty areas.
According to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), South Korean students display a high level of academic achievement in reading, mathematics, and science.
The PISA 2015 results show that Korea was among the highest ranked OECD countries, ranking third to eighth in reading, first to fourth in mathematics, and fifth to eighth in science.
South Korea has a large number of talented people engaged in cutting-edge research. At government institutes, in universities, and also within Korea’s many world-leading corporations, a vast range of projects are undertaken: from basic research to the development of advanced technologies and innovative new commercial products.
In recent years, more research and development has been focused on the fields of the Fourth Industrial Revolution including artificial intelligence (AI), electronics, computers, the Internet of Things (IoT), and big data.
As of 2016, the number of researchers in Korea stands at 461,000, equivalent to 13.3 for every 1,000 economically active people. Their activities result in numerous patent applications, both at home and abroad.
Sophisticated Information Society
South Korea is a leading powerhouse in information and communication technology. It is a country full of dynamism. It became the first country in the world to commercialize the CDMA and WiBro technologies as well as established nationwide 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks. Since July 2017, fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks have been in trial operation with the aim of early commercialization in March 2019.
These sophisticated information and communication technologies have led to changes in diverse social sectors, including the innovation of government administration. With the help of such advanced technologies, the procedures for reporting a baby’s birth, moving home or registering a person’s death are handled more efficiently.
Under the Social Networking Service (SNS), people now use an interactive communication system in which the government provides useful information to people while members of the public can report cases of inconvenience to the government. In 2016, the country posted a total of 124 e-government–related exports worth USD 269.45 million.
In the global e-government survey conducted by the United Nations in 2018, South Korea ranked third, following Denmark and Australia. South Korea had ranked first in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 assessments.
With the improvement of sophisticated communication infrastructures as the improvement of advanced communication infrastructure and the increased use of mobile devices enables people to communicate with the world in real time, transforming existing ways to exchange information.
KakaoTalk, a smartphone messenger app developed in Korea, is highly popular, along with Twitter and Facebook. Podcast, another form of SNS, is establishing a new area in the communication (broadcasting) sector. Now, SNS even exerts an influence in politics through the formation of public opinion, in addition to its inherent functions such as the delivery of information or entertainment.
Changes and Vision
South Korea is rapidly changing into a knowledge-based society. Human resources are regarded as the most important element of society and as a primary source of national competitiveness.
In South Korea, the development of creative good-quality cultural products, in which human resources are combined with cultural resources, is viewed as an industrial sector that will play a leading role in the 21st century. Current examples of the country’s promising cultural products include K-Pop, TV dramas (e.g. Dae Jang Geum), and TV animations for infants (e.g. Pororo).
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country’s Human Development Index (HDI) is rising, apparently as a result of the growing emphasis on investment and the development of human resources as key actors of creative industrial sectors. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of the life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. In 2016, South Korea’s HDI came to 0.901, ranking 18th among 188 countries.
Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'