With investments in research and development constantly on the rise, South Korea has become the OECD's number one research nation - outranking the US, Germany and Japan.
South Korea has become an increasingly attractive cooperation partner for German science and a new, dynamic form of cooperation has been forming between German and South Korean researchers. South Korea currently ranks 14th among the world's strongest economies and is the third most important market for German products in Asia, edged out only by China and Japan. The country is a global leader in technology fields such as electronics, liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and microchips.
There are many opportunities for German businesses in South Korea. Research collaborations can be particularly beneficial and smooth market entry in high-technology sectors, for example automotive manufacturing, shipbuilding, electronics, medical technology, biotechnology, environmental technology, plant engineering and the chemical industry.
Developing a 'creative economy' is one of the key targets of President Park Geun-hye's government which was elected in 2012. One way of achieving this goal is by fostering innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, and Germany has become a role model in this respect. A disproportionately large part of South Korean research and development still takes place in the major industrial conglomerates, or chaebols, such as Samsung or LG.
The internationalization of science and research plays an important role in South Korea. Research infrastructures are well-equipped and new funding programmes specifically target researchers from abroad in order to attract internationally acclaimed scientists and foreign investment. Strengthening vocational education and training is another explicit goal of the South Korean government and supported by the German Federal Research Ministry.
The agreement on scientific and technological cooperation signed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Korea in 1986 is an important cornerstone of bilateral cooperation. Regular meetings at the ministerial level have been taking place since 2007 in order to coordinate cooperation activities. On the South Korean side, this involves the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) as well as the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE).
Germany's research relations with South Korea have become much closer over the past years. The Federal Research Ministry alone funded over 230 collaborative projects between German and South Korean researchers from 2005 to 2014. Cooperation focused on the life sciences, information and communication technologies, nanotechnology, materials research, physical and chemical technology, environmental research as well as marine and polar research.
The mobility programme, which has been jointly funded since 2007, is a very successful tool of cooperation and supports around ten to twelve German-Korean collaborative projects every year. Three university projects to set up joint sustainable research structures have been funded since 2013 in order to further consolidate cooperation. One example is the collaboration between the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Seoul National University. The project 'Urban voids' is about testing a new form of urban renewal in the two very different cities of Karlsruhe and Seoul. This is done by investigating and promoting the appropriation and change in 'ownership' of spaces and estates by local residents (by means of 'urban gardening', for example).
Germany’s special interest in cooperating with South Korea is reflected among others by the fact that the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has been running KIST-Europe, a research institute in Saarbrücken under German law, since 1996.
South Korea also has a very active research partnership with Europe. South Korean research institutions participated in 54 projects under the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (2007-2013). The European-South Korean KONNECT project was launched in October 2013. Its objective as a research policy project is to strengthen cooperation in science, technology and innovation.
The association of Korean Germany alumni (ADeKo) is a network of South Koreans who have studied or conducted research in Germany. ADeKo was established in 2008 and currently counts 7,000 members, including South Korean high-level government officials and industrial representatives who have been making great efforts to further strengthen the scientific, economic, political and cultural ties between the two countries. The Federal Research Ministry provided funding for the establishment of the ADeKo Network until 2015.
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