Reports from SERI Quarterly, SERI's in-depth quarterly journal on the Korean and Northeast Asian economies
July 2013 Seven Disruptive Innovations for Future Industries
“Disruptive innovations” are new technologies that change human life and induce a fundamental break with the past. Seven upcoming disruptive innovations set to change your life include wearable computers, 3D printing, context awareness technology, driverless cars, ultra-light materials, gene therapy and post-battery technology.
China has long been seen as the only country able to exert a measure of influence on North Korea’s military adventurism. China’s position, however, is complex, involving a long term alliance with the North, its need to guard its own security interests, and concern about both the extension of US influence and the arrival of nuclear weapons on its border.
North Korea’s abductions of 17 Japanese citizens in the 70s and 80s have long been an obstacle to establishing diplomacy between the two countries, an obstacle that worsened when North Korea acknowledged that the abductions had occurred. Solving the issue will require an acceptance of progress rather than immediate resolution.
North Korea’s moribund economy is showing signs of life as tacit tolerance of markets and private ownership by the government are spurring growth in agriculture and light industry. Nevertheless, the regime remains committed to parallel development of the economy and nuclear weapons, while easing food shortages may make the regime even more intransigent.
Pyongyang’s successful third nuclear test has once again set the world on edge, posing a major challenge to the US and South Korea on one hand and China and Russia on the other. For North Korea however, the test has served to bolster its status in dealing with all of the foregoing countries, and provides insight as to how it will act in the future.
North Korea’s long economic decline has sent the official economy to the margins, along with its official currency, and today North Koreans largely conduct business in private markets with foreign currency. State attempts to confiscate wealth have only accelerated the migration, and markets are set to take over almost all of the functions of the official economy.
SERI’s annual survey on the nation brands of 50 countries showed that most of the top ranked countries remained highly regarded. Korea, however, showed significant improvement in its ranking for technology and modern culture, on the back of pop cultural phenomena like “Gangnam Style,” and strong sales for Samsung smartphones.
Booming demand for oil is spurring firms to look further and further offshore, providing a new source of demand for Korea’s offshore platform builders. Higher safety standards and the rise of national oil companies are further shaping this industry. Korean firms hoping to profit from these changes will need new operating models as well as collaboration with researchers in academia.
Some of the most successful companies only became and stayed so after a long list of failures. Rather than destroying careers, businesses need to learn how to make the most of failures and turn them into fuel for innovation. Doing so requires a culture where risk taking is encouraged and mistakes are tolerated and openly discussed.
2013 is bringing both a new President and a challenging new era for Korea’s consumers. This year in Korea will be characterized by slow growth, growing household debt, and pinched wallets amid movements to expand welfare, extend the retirement age, and increase social cohesion.