The relationship between national policy support programmes in the UK and South Korea 1940s – 2000s

Choi, Youngok; Cooper, Rachel; Lim, Sungwoo and Evans, Martyn (2011). The relationship between national policy support programmes in the UK and South Korea 1940s – 2000s. Design Issues, 27(1) pp. 70–82.




As design has increasingly become regarded as a strategic tool that makes a critical contribution to enhancing competitiveness and economic success, a growing number of businesses now consider the use of design as a means of achieving their business goals. Governments, too, have embraced policies that encourage businesses to develop and implement new products and services through the use of design. Yet, despite the efforts of companies to expand their business into overseas markets with government support, achieving their goals in the rapidly changing competitive environment of the global marketplace and economy is becoming increasingly difficult. Researchers have proposed that the purpose of a national design policy is to ensure that the appropriate design support is provided for businesses to become globally competitive. Such research has analyzed the influence of design on global competitiveness; however, few researchers have addressed the influence of national design policy on global competitiveness either longitudinally or in relation to indigenous industry.

In this paper we examine in two different countries (i.e., the U.K. and South Korea) the relationship between national design policies and industrial development, as evidenced through a government-supported design center’s strategy, activities, and industrial support. We also compare the two cases to understand national design policy and how it influences indigenous industry. These two countries have been selected because of the difference in the level of maturity in their “design” support (i.e., United Kingdom has a very mature Design Council, while the Korea Institute of Design Promotion (KIDP), in South Korea, is relatively new); yet similar in their design and innovation index ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report.6 Both countries also have been described as having a clear and effective design policy and have applied government design policy and design promotion programs that have intensified the role of design in international competition. It has also been suggested that the United Kingdom has a strong government-supported design export program; that as the largest design industry in Europe, its annual turnover exceeds £11.6bn; and that it is a key knowledge hub in the global economy. In South Korea the government has invested in infrastructure for design promotion, has increased the quality and quantity of design education, and has extended the use of design in industry, gaining recognition through its ambitious design policy framework and its design program. To understand and compare the two nations’ approaches to policy, we undertook a detailed desk research and examined documentary evidence related to the activities of each council. In the U.K., this analysis included using Design Council archives at Brighton University to study every annual report and accounts and strategy document since 1940. In South Korea, records at KDIP were used, along with other literature on its policy. This paper presents the findings for both countries during the period from 1940 to the present. For convenience and clarity, they are described in decades, and we present the activities and policies of each council in the context of the prevailing economic and industry performance for each period. The paper concludes with a short comparison of the councils and their national policies and the conclusions that can be drawn from such a review.

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