Korea in Global Value Chains: Pathways for Industrial Transformation


The Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade (KIET) commissioned a global value chain study to Duke University Global Value Chains Center (Duke GVCC). The goal of this study is to analyze the country’s participation in specific global industries to identify broader lessons for Korea’s future ambitions for industrial transformation. To do so, we examine Korea’s participation in two major industrial sectors: electronics and shipbuilding. Together, these two industries comprise 30% of exports, account for over half a million semi- and skilled jobs and a substantial share of the country’s R&D spending. They provide two distinct perspectives for Korea’s participation in GVCs. On one hand, electronics products are targeted to the consumer market, technologies are rapidly changing and profits are derived from bulk production for mass consumer markets, and control over marketing and branding. Shipbuilding, on the other hand, is very capital-intensive, ships have long life cycles, and production is highly concentrated in three countries. In both industries Korea has established a global leadership position in a select number of final product categories and key component products by continually investing in process and product upgrading coupled with strong R&D investments.






Frederick, Stacey, Penny Bamber, Lukas Brun, Jaehan Cho, Gary Gereffi and Joonkoo Lee (2017). Korea in Global Value Chains: Pathways for Industrial Transformation. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/15985.



Gary Gereffi

Professor Emeritus of Sociology

Gary Gereffi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Value Chains Center at Duke University (https://gvcc.duke.edu/).  He has published over a dozen books and numerous articles on globalization, industrial upgrading, and social and economic development, and he is one of the originators of the global value chains framework.  His most recent books are:  Handbook on Global Value Chains (co-edited by Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert), Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. 2019); and Global Value Chains and Development: Redefining the Contours of 21st Century Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  Current projects include:  (1) the impact of U.S. protectionism on jobs and regional trade agreements; (2) evaluating how the digital economy and Industry 4.0 are likely to affect international business strategies and industrial upgrading; and (3) shifting regional interdependencies in East Asia and North America, with a focus on China, South Korea and Mexico vis-à-vis the United States.

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