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A Distributive Comparison of Enterprise Size in Korea and Taiwan

Listed author(s):
  • Abe, Makoto
  • Kawakami, Momoko
Registered author(s):

    Research to date on the economic development of the Republic of Korea and Taiwan has frequently contrasted the two economies by depicting the former as centered on large-scale enterprises and the latter on small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). The purpose of this study is to see if the appropriateness of this perception will also be verified by the statistical data.In Section I the authors utilized census data on the Korean and Taiwanese manufacturing sectors to compare the distribution pattern of the sizes of enterprises in the two economies. However, on examining the available data for making this comparison, the authors discovered that for Korea the statistics provided are those at the level of the establishment (a physical unit engaging in industrial activities such as a factory, workshop, office, or mine) while the statistics for Taiwan are those at the enterprise level. Mindful of this difference, the authors looked at the portion of the economy accounted for by large-scale establishments in Korea that employed 500 workers or more and by enterprises in Taiwan employing the same number of workers, and they discovered that the portion that these large-scale businesses account for, especially in the area of output, has steadily declined since the 1980s. When comparing the share of total production that these large-scale establishments/enterprises account for in the two economies, the authors concluded that those in Korea accounted for a larger share of that economy's production than did their counterparts in Taiwan. The authors then compared the portion of the economy accounted for by establishments in Korea and enterprises in Taiwan that employed less than ten workers, and they found that the portion of the two economies that these very small-scale production units accounted for has also been on the decline.Section II compares the portions of the two economies accounted for by large business groups. After comparing the percentage of GDP accounted for by the total sales of these business groups, the authors found that large business groups in Korea have played a far more important role in Korean economy than has been the case for such groups in Taiwan. This difference in the importance of such business groups in the two economies has also played an significant part in fostering the perceived dichotomy of large-scale enterprises playing the important role in Korea versus SMEs being the important players in Taiwan.Section III compares the percentage of total exports accounted for by SMEs, and shows that SMEs in Taiwan account for a larger share of exports than do their counterparts in Korea. This section also shows that in Taiwan the share of export sales for SMEs has consistently exceeded that for non-SMEs, while in Korea the relationship between enterprise size and the rate of export sales has been directly proportional. This difference in the size of the major export players is another factor fostering the perception of the Korean economy being centered on big business while Taiwan's is on SMEs.Although there were difficulties and limitations when comparing the data of the two economies, the statistical comparison undertaken in this study shows that in general big business has played the major role in the development of the Korean economy while in Taiwan's economic development this role has been played by SMEs. Thus the statistical data also verifies the perceived dichotomy of these two economies.

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    Article provided by Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO) in its journal The Developing Economies = The Developing Economies.

    Volume (Year): 35 (1997)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 382-400

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    Handle: RePEc:jet:deveco:v:35:y:1997:i:4:p:382-400
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