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Thailand looks to S Korea for economic ideas

Mar 28. 2016
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In the biggest official delegation |to South Korea in many years, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and six economic ministers were in South Korea last week to express Thailand’s determination to create a deeper economic partnership between the tw
Besides paying a courtesy call to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and meeting with private sector representatives, Somkid spent a significant part of his time there visiting innovation hubs to learn about the country’s successful restructuring towards an innovation-driven economy.
Joining him were economic ministers from the following ministries: Industry, Commerce, Information and Communications Technology, Science and Technology, Transport, and Tourism and Sports.
The deputy prime minister wants Thailand, which is in a dire need of restructuring its economy, to imitate South Korea through an unprecedented collaboration among the government, large firms and business start-ups to commercialise their ideas in a bid to create wealth and contribute as new drivers for the economy.
“Our objective of this visit is clear. South Korea is very important to the world’s future because of its scientific advancement,” he said. 
Somkid is keen for the Koreans to contribute to Thailand’s restructuring programmes towards a creative economy, smart cities and the “digital economy”.
Among the places the Thai delegation visited were the Daejeon Centre for Creative Economy and Innovation. Located at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), one of the country’s most prestigious universities with a focus on science and technology research and development, the Daejeon Centre opened its doors in October 2014.
Its aim is to help start-ups focused on information and communication technology commercialise their technology and expand their businesses globally. There are 17 other creative economy and innovation centres (CCEIs) spread all over South Korea, each of them specialising in a particular field, and sponsored by a different chaebol (conglomerate) under collaborations with the central government and local governments. 
David Sehyeon Baek, chief of international affairs at the Gyeonggi CCEI, told reporters that these innovation hubs were created less than two years ago because the government had realised the importance of delivering a flourishing creative economy that was not reliant only on large companies.
“Big companies are dinosaurs. They are too big and become bureaucratic. They don’t know how to innovate very well,” he said.
Through tapping the brilliant ideas of start-up entrepreneurs, large companies do not have to start their research and development efforts from scratch, while start-ups benefit from utilising large firms’ resources, capital and global networks.
 After listening to a briefing from the Daejeon CCEI executive, Somkid assigned Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee and the chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, Supant Mongkolsuthree, who was also in South Korea, to coordinate a similar open-innovation platform in Thailand. 
“Large firms should be approached to assist in each sector, such as in ICT and food. I believe Supachai will definitely take it on,” said the deputy PM, referring to Supachai Chearavanont, president and chief executive of True Corp.
Under the proposed scheme, Somkid said his most daunting task would be to stress to the general public that government was not going to assist “big fish to swallow up small fish”.
Suvit said the Korean model was similar to the Pracha Rath (State of People) initiative the Thai government was pursuing. “But a difference is we don’t have as strong a technological base as South Korea,” he said.

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