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[Editorial] New Government Should Reverse Brain Drain

Posted November. 30, 2007 03:09,   


Korea is one of the countries that are shown to suffer the most rapid brain drain according to the brain drain index, created by the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. Korea scored 7.53 (with zero meaning total drain and 10 meaning total influx) in 1996, ranking fourth, but our nation ranked 38th among 58 countries with a score of 4.91 last year.

The phenomenon of domestic brains going abroad and foreign brains neglecting Korea deals a serious blow to national competitiveness. Among the nations of which national power is rapidly growing in recent times, there is no country like Korea which has experienced a simultaneous brain drain. If Korea loses the battle for brains, the nation cannot become a developed country, or even maintain the status quo.

Many countries are struggling to attract brains. The U.S. government spent $1 million on airing TV commercials in China and India to lure foreign students to U.S universities this year. China lures talented people by offering world-class wages, housing, cars and income tax reduction to talented human resources from abroad. India encourages domestic brains in the U.S and Europe to come back by acknowledging dual citizenship.

With such an effort, the brain drain index of India jumped to 6.76 in 2006 from 3.07 in 1996, while Ireland scored 8.14, up from 5.15. The U.S., Norway and Finland are all rich countries with the highest points on the IMD list.

The number of Korean students studying at foreign universities has hit a record high of 217,000. A whopping 46 percent of Korean professionals with a doctor’s degree in science and engineering in the U.S. settle there. It is difficult to attract smart people from abroad with the Korean government’s regulation making universities equal and public education policy. Globally-acknowledged brains are also reluctant to come back to Korea, for the lowering quality of its public education system cannot satisfy their children. The government should reform its public education system and draw foreign world-class universities.

Attracting talents has to be the key policy issue for the next government. We cannot appeal to patriotism any longer. Talented manpower with globalized minds moves to places with high pay and good working conditions. Korea should provide them with global-level treatment and incentives, and make an easier environment for foreign talents to work and live in Korea.