The politics of technological upgrading in South Korea: how government and business challenged the might of Qualcomm

Sung-Young Kim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


How has industrial restructuring and technological upgrading in South Korea undertaken in the post-crisis era impacted on the state's capacity to guide strategic industry development? The latest reincarnation of the 'end of the developmental state' thesis proposes that industry policies are losing their strategic long-term oriented character due to the state's lack of legitimacy to play a guiding role after the economic recovery. I test this view in light of the Korean state's role, since the early 2000s, in the promotion of a new mobile communications software standard known as the Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI). I argue that the Korean state retains a strategic long-term approach to techno-industrial governance. The argument is developed through examining how bureaucratic actors gained the legitimacy to challenge Qualcomm, the strategy involved in promoting WIPI, and how the bureaucracy supported domestic firms under an increasingly open international trading environment. The findings reveal the state's ability to renew its legitimacy to play a developmental role through re-articulating policy goals from catching-up to nurturing innovation. Furthermore, the state has experimented with new forms of cooperation between government and business to nurture the growth of new infant technological growth sectors such as telecommunications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-312
Number of pages20
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • developmental state
  • Korea
  • industry policy
  • WIPI
  • Qualcomm
  • WTO


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