The technical engineering services industry (hereinafter engineering industry) is a knowledge-intensive and technology-complex industry. This industry plays a central role in economic development by providing several links in the national innovation system from R&D through to diffusion and assisting both producers industry and the construction industry in conceiving, completing and commissioning projects. The main purpose of this thesis is to examine technology development patterns in the Korean engineering industry.
This thesis is composed of two major parts. The first part concerns developing a model of organizational learning in the imitative catching-up process. The second part analyzes the Korean nuclear power industry to test the model which tries to explain technology development process and technological learning to absorb existing knowledge in developing countries.
In developing countries, the imitative catching-up process can be shown as a course of developing the absorptive capacity of existing knowledge, which depends on prior knowledge base and the organizational capability. The organizational learning process of acquiring existing knowledge may be described as a means to develop the cognitive structure, which converts borrowed knowledge into embodied knowledge, and transforms component knowledge into architectural knowledge. It consists of five stages including attention, acquisition of component knowledge, internalization of component knowledge, acquisition of architectural knowledge, and internalization of architectural knowledge. Moreover, this study has explored on various mechanisms of absorbing external knowledge.
Korea has exerted her efforts to assimilate nuclear power technology, and reportedly localized 95 percent of nuclear power technology by 1995. This study investigates the evolution of nuclear power program in Korea to exploit the development process of the nuclear power industry and key factors for the technological localization of nuclear power plant. The process of technological learning consists of five stages including preparation, implementation of foreign technology, acquisition of peripheral technology, acquisition of core technology, and improvement of foreign technology. Moreover, this study discusses six essential factors that have influenced the successful achievement of technological localization of nuclear power plants in Korea. They include the role and strategies of the government, the leading role of utility firm, the development and cooperation of the related organizations, the development of human resources and their efforts, market conditions and the assistance of foreign donors, and social conditions. This study also discusses implications derived from the Korean experiences for other developing countries.
As a theoretical contribution, this study may be useful in forming a theoretical framework for developing the organizational learning theory whose main focus is on absorbing existing knowledge in developing countries. This study would be used as a global model which integrates the various development processes of different industrial technologies. The results would be helpful in searching for appropriate measures for reducing the knowledge gap between Korea and advanced countries.