Chapter 8 Catch-up and leapfrogging in six sectors in the 1980s and 1990s
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Chapter 8 examines the experiences of selected industries in Korea to identify the stylized facts in the process of technological capability building and thereby to sort out the conditions for the catching-up to occur. To explain the process, we have built a model of technological and market catching-up. Special attention has been given to the question of whether there has been a case of leapfrogging in any industry in Korea and, if so, what are the conditions for its occurrence. In our framework, we first measure the degree of catching-up in terms of market shares in the world. Then we focus on catching-up in technological capabilities in explaining the different records and prospects of Korean industries in market share catch-up. Using this model, we explain the different technological evolutions of selected industries in Korea in the 1980s and 1990s, including the memory chips (D-RAM), automobile, mobile phone, consumer electronics, personal computer, and machine tool industries. We find three different patterns of catching-up: path-creating catching-up (CDMA mobile phone), stage-skipping catching-up (D-RAM and automobile), and path-following catching-up (consumer electronics, personal computers, and machine tools). We interpret the first two cases of catching-up as “leapfrogging.” We find that important R & D projects involved both private and public capacities (except automobiles where only private R & D was involved), and that entry was not driven by endogenous generation of knowledge and skills but by collaboration with foreign companies.

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