Korean Science and Technology Research will be Stuck
Korean Science and Technology Research will be Stuck
  • Sang-Su Kim (LIFE 13)
  • 승인 2016.06.01 12:30
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On May. 16, Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced they will abolish the Technical Research Personnel (TRP) and Skilled Industrial Personnel through a Maeil Economy newpaper article. According to MND’s announcement, the number of selected people gradually decreases from 2018 and completely disappears until 2023. In particular, military serve replaced with the Ph.D.’s course is to be abolished from 2019.
President Doh-Yeon Kim said “Graduate course is the flower of scientific research, but this treatment is like detaching a bud and attaching the bud again”, and many people from various fields revealed their strong objection and worries about the abolition of TRP. Even inside of POSTECH, TRP abolition became a huge issue.   
There are broadly two reasons why MND abolishes TRP system. Decreasing military resources due to the continuous low birth rate is the first reason. Soldiers who will directly engage in a battle are insufficient, and MND insists the complete abolition of alternative military service to other national ministries. By abolishing the TRP first, MND added that the policy can be regarded as privilege of major universities, since most of them are from SNU, KAIST, and POSTECH.   
However, many universities including POSTECH as well as whole science field strongly oppose to the abolition of TRP. This is the case because TRP has highly contributed to the development of national science, technology, and academic studies since 1970s. The research conducted by TRP during the three years of military obligation contains national defense technologies and national projects. We can clarify the research during the period when we calculate the research loss rate without TRP using POSTECH internal data. POSTECH have completed or having been conducted 31 research assignments from MND through 2013 to 2016. Considering the characteristics of scientific field, graduate students are directly linked to research power and even though they put new agents to fill the blank of missing graduate students, it takes at least three years (the period for Ph.D. work completion). Therefore we can assume that the abolition of TRP brings the loss of each research assignment. According to the assumptions and the ratio of TRP in each department, research loss rate of national defense research is calculated to be 23 percent. With respect to national research, 20 percent of currently ongoing research is suddenly stopped. Followings are the list of research that Korea has to abandon in order to make “only” 2,500 additional soldiers: Super heat resisting alloy powder, Next generation long range air survey system, Low frequency transmission technology, etc.
Economic arena also expressed distinct objection. For the cases of small businesses, they improved their competitiveness by conducting high quality of research with designated TRP. They concern the loss of human resources. In 2013, TRP made 133.6 billion KRW of effect on production inducement, and 38.1 billion KRW of add value inducement effect.
Moreover, logic of MND’s claims includes flaws. Modern warfare is based on science technology, not the number of soldiers. Most advanced countries such as the U.S., England, and Germany deals with the modernization and advancement of military by developing the technology. It raises doubts about how 2,500 additional soldiers will enhance the level of national defense, while giving up the ongoing research. The “privilege” issue about TRP that the beneficiaries are concentrated in major universities, misleads the reality of Military Manpower Administration, because they inevitably arrange TRP to the place where major faculty and instruments are available.
Accordingly, POSTECH undergraduate association held emergency student central management committee on May. 17, 12:00 A.M. It was only 12 hours after the relevant article had been published, but we planned various responses and scenarios through the committee. Emergency student’s representative’s general meeting was held on the same day, 12:30 P.M., and decided for objection in the name of POSTECH undergraduate association and the participation to the “National Science and Engineering Student TRP Special Task Force”. We also held an opposing press interview on May 19, at the National Assembly building.
MND took a step back, saying “The abolishment is not fixed yet”, as many people objected to the announcement. They now sustain their basic attitude about decreasing military resources. They urged they will gradually decrease the number of soldiers and set aside national defense technology preparing for the modern and future warfare in their National Defense Innovation plan 2020 and 2030, respectively announced in 2007 and 2015. However, they delay their innovation plan so easily and rather force research manpower to leave laboratory. It is already the second postponement of MND’s innovation plan.     
Particularly for the students who major science and engineering, it is so disappointing that MND judges problems for our “lives” so easily. I hope the point of view that this country stares at research and studies, and I strongly insist the total annulment of the TRP abolition policy.