South Korea is one of the world’s most innovative economies thanks to Hallyu

South Korea economy

Thanks to K-pop, IT and medical research, South Korea has now been deemed the fifth most innovative economy in the world. 

An innovator rises: South Korea was ranked in the top five of the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2021, according to a report published on Monday by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

  •  The country climbed five places from 10th place in 2020 to join the top five ranked countries this year: Switzerland, which is at No. 1, Sweden at No. 2, the United States at No. 3 and the United Kingdom at No. 4.
  • WIPO, which considers innovation as among the main drivers of economic growth and social development, cited the country’s filed trademarks, global brand value, as well as cultural and creative services exports as indicators for its overall innovation. 
  • The agency suggested that the South Korean wave (K-pop and K-drama), otherwise known as the Hallyu wave, is fueling the country’s creative economy, according to the Associated Press
  • “Innovation is resilient — and even more resilient than we expected,” WIPO Director General Daren Tang was quoted as saying. “What COVID has done is that it has disrupted certain industries, but it has accelerated certain industries.”
  • The organization also noted South Korea’s significant improvements in knowledge and technology outputs, the Straits Times reported.
  • South Korea’s Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy Moon Sung-wook also made note of the country’s research and development investments in bioscience “to help with vaccines and medicine” and in information technology “to cope with digital transformation.”
  • Moon recognized the Korean entertainment scene by saying that South Korea is “expanding its influence in the global pop culture market.”
  • Four other Asian economies join South Korea in the top 15, with Singapore retaining its 8th spot on the list for the third straight year, China landing at 12th place, Japan at 13th and Hong Kong at 14th.

Why it matters: According to WIPO, this year’s edition of the GII relied on 81 different indicators to present “the latest global innovation ranking of 132 economies,” while also focusing on “the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on innovation.”

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  • This formula that measures an economy’s innovation should help “decision-makers in government, business and elsewhere” in creating policies that “enable their people to invent and create more efficiently.”
  • Tang, the first Asian to head the IP agency and the first Singaporean to head any UN agency, said, “As the world looks to rebuild from the pandemic, we know that innovation is integral to overcoming the common challenges that we face and to constructing a better future.”

In February, South Korea also took the top spot in the latest Bloomberg Innovation Index, which analyzes a country’s innovation using seven equally weighted metrics, such as research and development spending, manufacturing capability and concentration of high-tech public companies. It has so far topped the index for seven of the nine years since it began.

Featured Image via HYBE Labels (left), The Swoon (center), officialpsy (right)

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