The Republic of South Korea is one of the priority partners of the European Union (EU) in the global economy. The Korean economy is now the 12th largest in the world, and a key trade and investments partner for Europe.
The impressive economic and technological progress South Korea has been demonstrating for last several decades has brought the country to the forefront of the global powerhouses. This progress is firmly rooted in the principles of the knowledge-based economy that South Korea is consistently pursuing. Korean RTD expenditures are above 4% of the national GDP, well above Europe and the OECD average. Korea is among the most technologically advanced and digitally connected countries in the world and a recognized market leader in electronics, mobile communication and the automotive sector. Therefore Korea is one of the most important RTD partners of EU with well established legal frameworks for cooperation. At the same time, the level of public awareness of cooperative opportunities for European researchers in Korean RTD and Innovation Programmes is still very low.
Science and Technology in Korea
As the world's 12th largest economy, Korea has emerged as a success story in many ways. In 2008, Korea's trade volume amounted to US$857 billion, ranking 11th in the world. Korea also has the sixth largest foreign reserves. South Korea is also among the world's most technologically advanced and digitally-connected countries; Korea is the world's largest shipbuilding nation. It has the third most broadband Internet users among the OECD countries and is a global leader in electronics, digital displays, semiconductor devices, and mobile phones. Since the early 1990s, the Government has been concentrating on three areas: fostering research in the basic sciences, securing an efficient distribution and use of R&D resources, and expanding international cooperation. These efforts are intended to increase Korea's technological competitiveness.
As of the end of 2007, Korea's total R&D investment reached US$33.6 billion, which accounted for 3.47 percent of GDP. Korea is also actively investing in the development of public welfare technologies that improve the quality of life and of technologies that can lead to the creation of new industries.
In 2008 South Korea ranked 5th highest in terms of R&D. Park Kye-jung, CEO of Ace Electronics, won the Gold and Silver prizes for his invention of motor and motor-equipped gear at the 23rd Invention and New Product Exposition, he took the gold medal with his invention of a special device that converts vibrations from a running car into electric power. During the INPEX held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sixteen Korean inventions received awards, including four gold prizes, three silvers, three bronzes and six special prizes. The Pittsburgh INPEX had inventors from 20 countries, contenders from Australia, Germany, the United States and 11 other countries submitted 160 items.
Korea also exports radioactive isotope production equipment for medical and industrial use to countries such as Russia, Japan, Turkey and others.
In robotics, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) competes with the Japanese company Honda with its humanoid robot HUBO. Honda's ASIMO and KAIST's HUBO lines are the two of very few humanoid robots that can walk. The first HUBO was developed within a span of 3 years and cost 1 million USD.
In renewable energy, South Korean scientists at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in cooperation with the University of California, Santa Barbara successfully developed an organic photovoltaic power cell with energy efficiency of 6.5 percent.