Nguyen Thanh Son, third from right, Can Tho City mayor, tours the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, in December last year. / Courtesy of KITECH
By Park Si-soo
Basic elements for economic growth include advanced technology and a competent workforce. So many underdeveloped nations crave for help from outside to learn an easier way to get the two in pursuit of shortcuts in national development.
In Korea, the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) takes the role of giving a helping hand to nations with fragile economies. The institute has shared Korea’s rags-to-riches story with many developing countries and provided them with tailored consulting services.
Among countries helped by KITECH are Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia.
In the latest assistance, it will establish a technology incubator in Vietnam’s Can Tho City, paving the way for the Southeast Asian country to have high-end technologies and skilled workers that will contribute to sharpening the competitiveness of Vietnam’s agricultural and fishing industries. Once completed, the facility’s ownership will be handed over to the Vietnamese government, officials said.
Can Tho is a rural town 169 kilometers southwest of Vietnam’s biggest city Ho Chi Minh. The processing industry for fish, meat, vegetable and fruit is the biggest source of income for the city.
The facility, named Incubator Park, is the first tangible output of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) involving the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. So far, Korea’s ODA projects have mostly been carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the state-run Korea International Cooperation Agency and other state-funded institutes.
KITECH said the incubator will be comprised of two buildings ㅡ one for managerial affairs and the other for research and engineering activities.
“Korea will cover all costs related to the construction and facility setup, while Vietnam will provide land and cover the building’s operation costs,” a KITECH official said.
The basic picture of the incubator took shape in a Korea-Vietnam bilateral meeting in April, 2011, in Hanoi. In the meeting, Korea selected Vietnam as the primary beneficiary of the former’s ODA program and pledged its full support for the development of the Vietnamese economy.
The Korean government believes the ODA will make it easier for domestic firms to tap into fast growing Vietnamese market. The Southeast Asian country is Korea’s fourth largest target of its outbound investment, after China, the United States, and Hong Kong.
Until now, the Vietnamese economy has relied heavily on the agricultural, fishing, forestry and mining industries ㅡ its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as of 2011 is $1,700.
But experts said the nation has huge growth potential, citing affluent natural resources such as oil, coal, iron ore, bauxite, and zinc, and a workforce available at relatively cheap prices.
Goldman Sachs predicted Vietnam will become the world’s 35th largest economy with nominal GDP of $436 billion by 2025.
Meanwhile, KITECH is a major contributor to technological advancement of many other countries, including Mongolia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan and as far as Ethiopia of Africa.
KITECH has conducted extensive researches and studies to help improve textile industry of Mongolia and Uzbekistan. The project will continue until December next year. It’s also leading an innovation of textile industry of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Ethiopia.
KITECH also formed partnership with the Indonesian government last year, through which the institute shares Korea’s advanced technology with Indonesian engineers in exchange for favorable treatment to Korean firms there by the authorities there.