Friday, September 2, 2011

Korea's Hardware Success and Software Challenge

A great deal has been written over the years about the strength of Korea's IT manufacturing and export sector in comparison to its relative weakness in software and content industries. The Joongang Daily has a lengthy article on the topic today, with supporting data and an effort to explain why Korea remains relatively week in the software area.
According to the article, as Korean companies take a hard look at their software vulnerabilities, they say they see a vicious cycle at work.
First, students shun software-related majors at universities. The quality of Korean software manpower falls behind that of other advanced countries. Companies don’t pay and treat their software engineers right. And that goes back to students shunning software majors at universities.
The accompanying graphic shows average salaries by certain occupational groups (click on the graphic to see a full size version).
According to a recent report by the Samsung Economic Research Institute, the number of places in IT-related departments at about 100 major universities in Korea have been declining for four years straight since 2006.
Admission quotas, or places, in computer engineering departments plunged at the fastest rate. The figure stood at 80 in 2006, but decreased to 73 in 2009. That compares to the figure for electric and electronic engineering, which inched down from 87 in 2006 to 85 in 2009.
“As the IT environment undergoes rapid changes, it’s crucial for Korea to secure software capability fast,” the report pointed out. “But universities appear to have succeeded in neither attracting top-tier software talent nor providing high-quality education programs.”
“The morale of Korea’s software talent is at its lowest,” said Daniel Lee, 41, CEO of Inspirit, a local company that makes software for mobile communication networks. “The importance of software is growing day by day, but if things don’t change, Korea’s software industry has no future.”
Some cite an even broader problem in the Korean technology industry: An under-appreciation of the value of start-ups and their innovative ideas, except by foreign tech firms.

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