Economic Catch-up and Technological Leapfrogging
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Economic Catch-up and Technological Leapfrogging

The Path to Development and Macroeconomic Stability in Korea

Keun Lee

This book elaborates upon the dynamic changes to Korean firms and the economy from the perspective of catch-up theory. The central premise of the book is that a latecomer’s sustained catch-up is not possible by simply following the path of the forerunners but by creating a new path or ‘leapfrogging’. In this sense, the idea of catch-up distinguishes itself from traditional views that focus on the role of the market or the state in development.
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Chapter 12: Moving factories overseas and impacts on domestic jobs: the case of Samsung

Keun Lee


Chapter 12 examines the effects of establishing factories abroad on domestic jobs and the issue of technological hollowing out, using the case of Samsung Electronics’ mobile phone business. It finds that the offshoring of mobile phone assembly to China, India, Brazil, and Vietnam did not result in a reduction of domestic jobs. On the contrary, Samsung’s domestic employment increased from 5,960 persons in 2002 to 20,500 in 2012. This increase mainly reflects a net increase in high-paying jobs (R & D, engineering, design, marketing) while the number of low-paying jobs (assembly) remained stagnant. To cope with possible technological hollowing out, Samsung kept its core engineers/technicians in a special unit, instead of firing them, whenever domestic assembly lines were reduced or foreign lines were established. They were kept inside the so-called “global manufacturing technology center,” with the number of its employees increasing from 80 in 2006 to more than 1,103 in 2011. These employees visit overseas factories to conduct activities such as maintenance, monitoring, re-modeling of assembly lines, and automation. In terms of strategy, Samsung engages in offshoring, but not outsourcing. This is in contrast to Apple which does both offshoring and outsourcing by contracting with Foxconn.

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