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Incentivizing Exports in Academic Planning: The Rise of South Korea and Lessons for Underdeveloped Nations


  • Daniel Schwekendiek


Since the mid-2000s, the Web of Science (WoS), produced by Thomson Reuters, has been used in several global university rankings. Since 2004, South Korean universities have jumped in WoS publications and global university rankings. This article argues that, in the past, Korea was characterized at all hierarchical levels by personal favoritism. But the military government that seized power in the 1960s used a rigorous system of quantified exports, wherein companies meeting export targets were rewarded. The system enabled South Korea to break the vicious circle of personal favoritism in the manufacturing sector of the economy. In its academic institutions, meanwhile, personal favoritism remained rampant and Korean scholars were clearly underperforming. In the late 1990s, South Korea sought reform of higher education, as part of a shift to a knowledge-based economy. In reforming higher education, the country copied the export strategy that had succeeded in advancing the production of manufactured goods. The government used the WoS and, later, global university rankings to reward productive scholars and punish unproductive ones. The system of quantified exports used in higher education was successful in filtering out free-riders and rent-seekers, minimizing bureaucratic costs, promoting English as a lingua franca in academia, and promoting globalization in scholarship. The system might be counterproductive in the long run, however, for a number of reasons.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Schwekendiek, 2016. "Incentivizing Exports in Academic Planning: The Rise of South Korea and Lessons for Underdeveloped Nations," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 13(3), pages 397–421-3, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:13:y:2016:i:3:p:397-421

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Komlos & John Goldsmith & Penny Schine Gold, 2001. "The Chicago Guide to an Academic Career," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 1, June.
    2. Butos William N. & McQuade Thomas J., 2012. "Nonneutralities in Science Funding: Direction, Destabilization, and Distortion," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 18(1), pages 1-28, October.
    3. Daniel Schwekendiek, 2015. "Recent changes in World University Rankings: an explorative study of Korea and Germany," Asia Europe Journal, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 361-377, December.
    4. Richard R. Nelson, 1959. "The Simple Economics of Basic Scientific Research," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67(3), pages 297-297.
    5. Il SaKong, 1993. "Korea in the World Economy," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 29, January.
    6. Frey, Bruno S, 2003. "Publishing as Prostitution?--Choosing between One's Own Ideas and Academic Success," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(1-2), pages 205-223, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eva Forslund & Magnus Henrekson, 2022. "The Virtues of Native Discourse: Striking a Balance Between English and the Native Language," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 19(2), pages 258–282-2, September.

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    More about this item


    South Korea; Asia; higher education; university; reforms; export-orientation; economic history; globalization; journal citation index; Park Chung-Hee; world university ranking;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy


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