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Basic Research in South Korea
Universities in Korea retain 72.6% of the researchers with doctoral degrees, but they do not offer adequate research environments due to insufficient funds, poor research facilities, and excessive teachingorientation. In 2003, only 10.1% of the national R&D investment was allocated to universities; whereas, the shares of the government research institutes and private industries were 13.8% and 76.1%. As basic research is essential to the strengthening of the nation's foundation longterm development, the government plans to increase its investment in basic research up to 25% of the government R&D budgets by 2007. Basic research is funded mainly by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education & Human Resources (MOE) via their respective agencies, the Korean Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) and the Korea Research Foundation (KRF).
To promote university research, the government designates university research groups with distinctive research capabilities as centers of excellence (COE). The COE includes Science Research Centers (SRCs), Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and Regional Research Centers (RRCs). The SRCs and ERCs focus on the creative and innovative research in basic sciences and engineering, while the RRCs emphasize cooperative research between regional universities and industries.
The SRCs and ERCs are selected on the basis of research capability and performance. In the selection of the RRCs, the capabilities to contribute to the regional economy and community are important factors. Once the centers are selected, they receive government funding for nine years provided that they survive the interim evaluation which is conducted every three years. So far, forty-three SRCs, fifty-seven ERCs, and fifty-four RRCs have been selected and funded.
In 1996, the government created the Korea Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS) as a worldclass institution for basic research. The Asia- Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics was also established in 1997 as a regional center for basic research. To facilitate basic research, the government also provides universities with modern research facilities through the Korea Basic Science Institute, which maintain more than 300 sets of research equipment for joint use among universities.