The Korea Herald is publishing a series of articles scrutinizing key aspects and sectors related to the creative economy promoted by the Park Geun-hye government. The series will feature interviews with top government officials and IT gurus, and strategies that embody the policy. The special articles were made in cooperation with the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. This is the seventh installment of the series. ― Ed.
Choi Mun-kee, Korea’s minister of science, ICT and future planning, sat down with The Korea Herald to talk about what “creative economy” means for him, for the ministry and for the country.
|Choi Mun-kee. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
Following are excerpts from the interview.
KH: Fear of failure is cited as the common reason for why start-ups fail in Korea. To overcome such fears, a safety net seems to be in order. Please give us your views on this.
Choi: Starting from July 2013, laws were eased so that those who borrowed from second-tier financial institutions will be exempted from joint guarantee liabilities, just the same as first-tier institutions. The government is also expanding the scope of assets that cannot be seized when individuals go bankrupt.
Additional investment or debt restructuring worth up to 40 billion won ($37.1 million) this year will be offered to entrepreneurs looking for a second chance.
Further, first-generation venture businesspeople will be tapped to offer them necessary mentoring and advice.
Last but not least, we hope to create a social atmosphere that’s more accepting of failure.
KH: Vitalizing the ICT sector is the core of the creative economy drive. But this very sector is suffering from a business environment that’s hostile toward domestic players. How will you address this problem?
Choi: The government announced a measure in June to raise the software maintenance fees that domestic companies collect to 10 percent next year, up from 8 percent. By 2017, they will rise to 15 percent to get close on the heels of the maintenance fees collected by foreign software firms that stand at 22 percent.
This will be the first such change in 18 years, as the past governments’ attempts in 1996 and in 2001 fell short of the target.
The ministry is also planning on setting up rules for promoting fair business between conglomerates and their ICT subcontractors.
KH: Software is another area of focus for the creative economy drive. It has been eight months since the enforcement of the Software Industry Promotion Act, but it seems we are seeing little change.
Choi: The ministry is working on other measures, including the “Software Innovation Strategy” that will involve nurturing a seasoned workforce, increasing demand and industry competitiveness, implementing fair business practices, and setting up a commission to manage software policies. Further, the ministry will work with colleges so they can offer education that’s been tailored for corporate work.
KH: The ministry will soon unveil a “Creative Economy Town,” which is to be a one-stop portal where venture start-ups can handle all business transactions, from coming up with ideas to commercialization. Please tell us more about it.
Choi: The ministry will make the website a place where economic participants including the public and companies can share, discuss and develop ideas.
Experts such as scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, business accountants and legal figures will also provide mentorship for those who want to protect creative ideas and develop them into actual products and businesses.
KH: Let’s talk about how Korea is doing globally. How is the creative economy initiative being received abroad?
Choi: I visited the U.S. in May and August to explain the aim of the initiative and goal of our creative economy policies and to get feedback from global opinion leaders on exactly how to achieve a creative economy. In May, we held a creative economy leader conference at The Getty museum, and I was in Boston in August. The people we met all showed support, calling it meaningful and timely.
They also complimented Korea’s progress so far but said it was time now to move from “made in Korea” on to “created in Korea.”
The G20 members also considered it important enough to include creative economy in its latest statement.
KH: Can you go into individual sectors ― particularly the telecom industry, which you said plays a critical role in pursuing a creative economy, but has yet to produce any real fruit?
Choi: These entities play a pivotal role in the telecommunications ecosystem. But in order to enhance their competitiveness, the companies must diversify their services to invest more in content, software and platforms to raise the competitiveness of the ICT ecosystem in general.
The companies did improve in terms of investment in these areas, but they are still focused too much on subsidies and marketing rivalry. They are far from being a leader yet.
The most critical goal for the communication industry is to create an ecosystem where the cycle moves from content to platform to network to devices.
KH: What about search portal Naver, which, after coming under harsh criticism for unfair practices, has been working to reset itself? How do you view its efforts?
Choi: While it’s great that Naver is mending its ways, we need more detailed and effective plans. The growth of online businesses is based on innovative ideas from venture companies, and it’s very important to have a diversified market in order to pursue a healthy Internet ecosystem and to increase convenience for the users.
Therefore, we hope for Naver and other leading companies to continue to create business models for pursuing mutual growth with venture and small and medium partners.
KH: Recent reports said your ministry may be relocated to Sejong City. What’s your take on the issue?
Choi: Although staying in Gwacheon would be convenient and makes more sense since we are close to the National Assembly and Cheong Wa Dae, the ministry will do what is told to do.
If we do move, we would have to increase efficiency by using teleconference systems and such for dialogue with Seoul.
By Kim Ji-hyun and Kim Young-won
Born in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province
•Studied applied mathematics at Seoul National University
•Earned his master’s degree in industrial engineering from KAIST
•Received a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University
•Served as professor at Information and Communications University
•Served as head of the state-run Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
•Became founding member of President Park’s think tank, the Institute for the Future of State
•Taught management science at KAIST