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Diverging Development Paths of the Electronics Industry in Korea and Taiwan


  • Sato, Yukihito


This paper examines the process and mechanism of economic development in the Republic of Korea and Taiwan through a comparative analysis of the electronics industry in each country. The paper will show that in its initial stage of development, the electronics industry in both economies had the same type of dual structure: a domestic demand sector based on the protected domestic market, and an export sector intended to capitalize on low-wage labor for the international market. However, this dual structure in the two economies faded away after the mid-1970s as their respective indigenous export-oriented enterprises began to develop. But the primary industrial players in each economy were very different. In Korea they were comprehensive electronics manufacturers affiliated with chaebols, and in Taiwan they were small and medium-size enterprises. Differences in the two economies' development mechanisms have brought about this divergence in development paths. In Korea this mechanism has been characterized by the government's positive role and the chaebol's readiness to react to the government's leadership. In Taiwan the development mechanism has been based on the private sector independent from the government. As an extension of such diverged development paths, ICs and personal computers showed spectacular growth in Korea and Taiwan after the 1980s. The development of ICs in Korea was primarily the result of a decisive role played by the chaebol's sizable financial resources, while the competitiveness in personal computers largely reflected the agility and flexibility of Taiwanese small and medium-size enterprises.

Suggested Citation

  • Sato, Yukihito, 1997. "Diverging Development Paths of the Electronics Industry in Korea and Taiwan," The Developing Economies, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO), vol. 35(4), pages 401-421, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:jet:deveco:v:35:y:1997:i:4:p:401-421

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chen, Tain-Jy, 1992. "Technical Change and Technical Adaptation of Multinational Firms: The Case of Taiwan's Electronics Industry," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(4), pages 867-881, July.
    2. Levy, Brian & Kuo, Wen-Jeng, 1991. "The strategic orientations of firms and the performance of Korea and Taiwan in frontier industries: Lessons from comparative case studies of keyboard and personal computer assembly," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 363-374, April.
    3. Mody, Ashoka, 1990. "Institutions and Dynamic Comparative Advantage: The Electronics Industry in South Korea and Taiwan," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(3), pages 291-314, September.
    4. Chen, Tain-Jy & Tang, De-Piao, 1986. "The production characteristics of multinational firms and the effects of tax incentives : The Case of Taiwan's Electronics Industry," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 119-129, November.
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    More about this item


    Industrialization; Electronic industries; Economic development; Korea; Taiwan; 工業化; 電子工業; 経済開発; 韓国; 台湾;

    JEL classification:

    • L63 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Microelectronics; Computers; Communications Equipment
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O25 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Industrial Policy


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