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Dr. Suk-Kwan Kim, Research Fellow
Date 2018.04.30 Hit 303
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Suk-Kwan Kim
Research Fellow
Division of Research on Innova

△ Research Fellow Suk-Kwan Kim, majored in philosophy of science and science& technology policy, has been working in STEPI since 1999. He led Life Science Team, Industry Innovation Team, Division of Industry Innovation, and Division of Industry Innovation Research. He has mainly studied in the fields of technology innovation in the bio and pharmaceutical industry, technology innovation pattern and system by industry, global innovation network, international specialization, technology management and technology strategy. We met Dr. Kim, a father of two daughters and a researcher, who has about twelve years left until his retirement, and listened to his life story as a STEPIAN.




What are the current points of interest?
I am interested in the institutional transition of Korea. I would like to complete my research on the development of the innovation capability of the Korean industry since the industrialization before my retirement. By analyzing how the institutional structure formed in the era of technology catch-up became an obstacle in the era of post catch-up, we will be able to lay out a post catch-up strategy.

In the case of Korea, the main focus in the catch-up era was technology acquisition and technology development. But, in fact, industrial innovation is achieved through the interaction and coevolution of technology and organization as well as institutions. As we worked hard to develop technology and catch up the advanced countries, the unique organizational structure and institutions of Korea have appeared, which now hinder our evolvement in the post catch-up era. Thus, under such hypothesis, I would like to dig in Korea’s industrial capability advancement since the industrialization from the perspective of institutions. For innovation, many researches have been conducted on the subjects of technology itself and related organizational issues, but institutional aspect has not been addressed so far. So, I plan to draw a broad picture by focusing on institutions as well as a couple of related issues until my retirement.


You mentioned the coevolution of technology, organization and institutions. Regarding them, could you tell us about the current status in Korea? Why do you think such study is required in this moment?
Germany, Japan and the US all have their original backgrounds, both institutionally and culturally. They also have traditional strength in certain industries. On the other hand, Korea has taken different pieces of their institutions as a second mover to make today’s system. We have just run forward without asking about our identity. So, in short, I am interested in looking into Korea, from the perspectives of organization and institutions.


What led you to work at STEPI?
I joined Institute of Industrial Technology Policy (ITEP, former name of Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology) in 1997. With the IMF Crisis, the public sector went under restructuring and formed 5 research councils: during this process, the policy research part of ITEP was separated and integrated with STEPI while the R&D administration part of ITEP became an agency under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Consequently, 4 researchers including myself moved to STEPI.


What is the most memorable research in your decades of research experience?
Honestly, there are many regrettable pieces. But there are a few studies I think I made positive contributions. My most representative studies would be the ‘research on innovation pattern in the shoes industry’ in 1999, the first research project I engaged in STEPI, and the ‘research on innovation pattern in pharmaceutical industries’ in 2004. In fact, the research on the shoe industry was an upgraded version of my research which I conducted when I was a Master's level researcher, and I think it has the highest completeness among my researches. I can’t forget those days when I stayed in Busan for a week despite the tight travel budget to interview local shoe manufacturers.


You conducted a cooperative study on the 4th industrial revolution last year. Could you share difficulties or good things you experienced in the study? 
There were many difficulties actually because a cooperative study is done on a top-down manner, where the research council leads and creates a research team. As 15 research institutes took part in the research, it wasn’t easy to coordinate with each other. But the hardest part was the contents. The 4th industrial revolution is more related to IT and digitalization which is not my major, so I had to study on my own for the research. Although the originality of the research may seem insufficient, I think it still has significance as the whole study provides well-assorted contents.


How do you spend your free time when you are not at work?
I enjoy SNS including Facebook. I think the strength of Facebook lies in the open and broad network, which is even helpful getting information for my study. For example, a power blogger brings up a certain issue, the relevant experts start to share the up-to-date information and news in the industry. That’s why I recently tend to just read the links without browsing news sites.


Do you have other hobbies?
I don’t have time for a hobby because I have to take care of my five-year old daughter. I drop her off at the daycare center by 9 in the morning, work at the office from 9 to 6, and then pick her up at 6 in the evening. This is what most of working moms do every day, and indeed they are doing remarkable things.


What does it mean to live as a researcher?
Researchers are supposed to research and make accomplishment, therefore not much sociality is required. I am a bit introverted too. I like reading and writing more than meeting people. Writing is like putting all the pieces of a puzzle together. When I completed a good piece of writing, I feel thrilled.


I believe a researcher is a writer. If you feel happy while writing, you can be a good researcher. But it is also a pain of researchers. There are some days you end up completing only one paragraph all day long. Sometimes, you have to spend a whole lot of time adding footnotes even when it is obvious that there are only five people around the world will read it. And you know that only a couple out of 10 references will be used. This boring job is the hardest part. 


What trainings do you think is needed to become a good writer?
I was able to get philosophical and humanistic education. Through the training to find logical connections between sentences, I acquired an eye to judge if a piece of writing is a good one. Even for my own writing, I proofread in an objective point of view to rewrite it when there’s no logical completeness. It is like ironing - ironing out crumpled parts. More than anything, you should read good writings as much as possible. Only when you have a standard for a good writing, you can tell whether your own writing satisfies the standard or not.

News articles are the most standard writings. Like articles, writings that are easy to read and understand are good ones. With logical flow, without grammatical error, one topic should be addressed in one paragraph. But, first of all, you should have the contents in your head. Without contents, you can never write a good piece.


What advice would you like to give to your junior researchers?
Researchers should have curiosity. Intellectual pursuit as well as satisfaction in the process of solving curiosity. If you simply believe it is just like working for a company, it won’t be easy to stay long as a researcher.


Lastly, what is your motto or slogan if you have one?
“Let’s get rid of boring job one by one.” There are always piles of work to do. I try to handle each of them one by one as always.