Korea in Global Value Chains: Pathways for Industrial Transformation

Korea in Global Value Chains: Pathways for Industrial Transformation
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Stacey Frederick | Penny Bamber | Lukas Brun | Jaehan Cho | Gary Gereffi | Joonkoo Lee

The Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade (KIET) commissioned a global value chain study to Duke University Global Value Chains Center (Duke GVCC). The goal of this study is to analyze the country’s participation in specific global industries to identify broader lessons for Korea’s future ambitions for industrial transformation. To do so, we examine Korea’s participation in two major industrial sectors: electronics and shipbuilding. Together, these two industries comprise 30% of exports, account for over half a million semi- and skilled jobs and a substantial share of the country’s R&D spending. They provide two distinct perspectives for Korea’s participation in GVCs. On one hand, electronics products are targeted to the consumer market, technologies are rapidly changing and profits are derived from bulk production for mass consumer markets, and control over marketing and branding. Shipbuilding, on the other hand, is very capital-intensive, ships have long life cycles, and production is highly concentrated in three countries. In both industries Korea has established a global leadership position in a select number of final product categories and key component products by continually investing in process and product upgrading coupled with strong R&D investments.

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