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2017-11-28 17:03
Korea’s falling competitiveness raises concerns

A recent report showed Korea has been continuously slipping in global talent competitiveness. Korea ranked 39th out of 63 countries in the 2017 Word Talent Report by the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD), down from 38th the previous year.

The report measured countries’ performance in various areas, such as worker motivation, education and workplace training.

In 2015, Korea placed 32nd, showing that Korea’s competitiveness has been dwindling swiftly in the last few years. The country lags behind smaller Asian economies, such as Hong Kong (12th), Singapore (13th), Taiwan (23rd) and Malaysia (28th). Japan was ahead at 31st while China climbed two places from last year to 40th.

One of the biggest reasons for Korea’s loss of talent competitiveness is a brain drain, particularly in the areas of science and technology. A study by the U.S. National Science Foundation showed more than 60 percent of Korean nationals who had acquired a Ph.D. in the U.S. wished to remain there. In contrast, about 70 percent of Chinese nationals chose to return to their home country after getting their Ph.D.

Korea has been unable to retain and attract talented people, mainly due to the rigid work culture that hampers innovation and creativity, and notorious working conditions marked by long hours and substandard pay. It was near the bottom of the index measuring worker motivation, ranking 59th out of 63 countries.

The most concerning aspect of the IMD report is that Korea was near the bottom of the index measuring the competitiveness of university education.

This means Korean university education is failing to meet the needs of the economy, particularly in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. China has emerged as a leader in the new technology war, outdoing other Asian rivals in drones and other new tech items. That was made possible due to its advanced ICT research.

The IMD report underlines the need for reform of not just universities but the entire education system which is focused solely on achieving good grades and getting into prestigious universities.

It is worrisome that the Moon Jae-in administration’s education policy is focused on promoting fair education rather than nurturing global talent. Moon’s first education minister Kim Sang-gon has aroused controversy with his plans to abolish elite high schools. This kind of ill-conceived policy decision will only weaken the country’s talent competitiveness.


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