South Korea Sees Creativity as Key to Growth

August 8, 2013, 4:41 PM

South Korea Sees Creativity as Key to Growth

By Jaeyeon Woo

The South Korean government unveiled this week a set of long-term plans to foster creative talent, which the government considers one of the most important factors for the country’s future growth. The decision came amid the acknowledgement that the current education system is not conductive to producing out-of-box thinkers. “The government realized the education and hiring environment of today has its limitation in encouraging creative talents,” read a statement released by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Employment and Labor on Wednesday.It also said the current aggressive economic model, which allowed the country to accomplish rapid development for the last four decades, faces limitations and a shift in growth policy is necessary.

The initiatives include education programs to emphasize individual goals and dreams, grow well-rounded talents, foster entrepreneurial and challenging spirits, help domestic workers get working experience overseas, and establish a lifelong education system.

Among the detailed plans, the government will push ahead with the development of software engineers by setting up more IT-related classes in high schools and building more schools dedicated to produce tech experts. Also it will broaden its online education system that is easily accessible and open to everyone, so that people can pursue academic interests without physically traveling to a campus.

“The sluggish economy has dampened the job market, which in turn fans the trend among job seekers to look for safe jobs,” read the statement. “University students spend too much time on improving test scores.”

The trend to pursue job security over interest or aptitude has been intensified especially after the financial crisis in 2008 when many people got pink slips during a restructuring process.

Indeed, a survey conducted early this year by Statistics Korea, the state-run statistics agency, more than 30% of high school students hoped to become government officials, followed by office workers in big companies (24.5%) and professionals like doctors or lawyers (11.4%).

Late last month, a record number of 204,000 people, about 30% of job seekers in the country, took a state test to become an entry-level government official75 applicants for every vacancy.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye, an engineering major, has been underlining the importance of producing scientists and engineers to grow the country to the next level.

President Park said in April “there is no doubt that the economic model driven by the government and some big businesses will have limitation. … We need a creative economy based on the IT sector where we could build a new industry and new jobs.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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