Mar 22

The Snippet: South Korea’s scientists seek change amid political chaos

When South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed scandal-ridden President Park Geun-Hye from office on 10 March, citizens rejoiced in the streets — and many scientists breathed a sigh of relief. Her downfall has inspired a public appetite for broad governmental reforms, including changes in how the country supports scientific research. Many in the research community hope to end South Korea’s decades-long focus on applied research and shift more resources to basic science. It is unclear whether, or how, the next administration will change the status quo, but scientists are seizing this opportunity to speak up. There is a growing sense that the current focus on applied research is inadequate if the nation is to keep up with scientific advances in the rest of the world. This feeling was reinforced last March when AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Google’s DeepMind in London, beat Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol at the game of Go. Many argued that taking technologies developed elsewhere and improving on them would not be enough to keep South Korean science competitive.

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