and Vocational School Teachers: The HRDI Experience in South Korea
Jacques Giard, Ph.D., IDSA Professor, School of Design | Arizona State University
Sungzin Chae, KSDS, KAID, Assistant Professor, School of Design | Yonsei University
The Republic of Korea is one of the so-called Asian Tigers. It earned this moniker because of its phenomenal rise as a manufacturing center in Southeast Asia. Moreover, it has subsequently achieved a design presence in the international marketplace. Companies such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG have clearly branded South Korea as an industrial and design force with a potential to not only meet and but also to surpass other Southeast Asian economies.
This meteoric rise of the Korean industrial sector is the result of several important factors, including international trade consideration for a developing nation and significant government intervention and support. Factors such as these have provided the foundation for a strong national industrial economy, but they do not necessarily guarantee an international one. That is, international economic markets can impose conditions that cannot be addressed only by a nationalistic agenda. For example, the freedom of choice implicit in consumer behavior in a foreign market cannot be controlled by a government policy in the home country. Thus, the American consumer who is looking for a new car will make a choice among many automobiles in ways that the national economic policies of South Korea cannot control. This is where design plays a role.
South Korean officials— political as well as industrial— realized that if the industrial economy was to grow it had to rely on exports. As a result, South Korean products would need to meet the existing design standards in the international marketplace. In the past, this strategic direction had proven to be very effective for other Southeast Asian economies such as Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore. South Korea was no different. Consequently, design was promoted by government-funded agencies, design education became common in many of the country’s universities, young Koreans were sent abroad for graduate design education, and corporations began to incorporate design in their strategic activities. These initiatives ultimately positioned South Korea as a Southeast Asian center of design, even more so when several international design conferences were held in Seoul, the most significant one being the 2001 Congress of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.