President-elect Park Geun-hye has nominated Dr. Jeong Hoon Kim, an Executive Vice President of Alcatel-Lucent and President of Bell Labs to hear the new super ministry, the Korean name for which is 미래창조과학부 but which has yet to receive its final English name.
As illustrated by a report in the Maeil Kyongjae (Korean language "Economic Daily"), the selection of Dr. Kim to head the new ministry appeared to be a surprise choice. Together with President-elect Parks nomination of a Deputy Prime Minister to head an "economic control" tower, her choice of Dr. Jeong Hoon Kim reportedly indicates that he will head up her interest in the development of a "creative economy" in Korea.
As reported by Yonhap News and other media, the nominee to head the proposed new ministry is a Korean-American, a highly successful entrepreneur, a former officer in the U.S. Navy, and holds degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, technical management, and reliability engineering, the last of which is his Ph.D. He has reportedly already regained his Korean citizenship, a prerequisite for such a ministerial appointment. However, as indicated by my choice of a title for this post, I believe one of his most important qualifications is that he currently serves as President of Bell Labs. There is great respect for Bell Labs here in Korea, and it goes back many years and runs deep. When I first started to interview people and do research for my 1995 book, The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea, I quickly learned about this. I also learned that many leaders in Korea's ICT sector hoped that from its formation, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) would become the "Bell Labs of Korea." In fact, ETRI has become more than that.
Of course, this post represents preliminary news since the nominations put forth by the incoming Park Geun-hye government require approval by the National Assembly. However, there are clear indications that the new government has a broad and rather clear understanding of how digital convergence and innovation will play a crucial role in Korea's future economic growth and development.