Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023
    The Rise of Imported Robots in South Korea: A Lesson on Labor Markets

    Summary: The influx of cheaper, imported robots is displacing domestic androids in South Korea’s robot manufacturing industry. While the imported Chinese robots may be technologically inferior, they have a more competitive price, leading to concerns among local robot manufacturers. The South Korean government, in an effort to encourage the transition of low-level manual labor from robots to humans, provides subsidies that are not differentiated between Korean-made robots and imports. This creates tension among robot manufacturers who feel their products are being undermined. However, the answer lies in allowing businesses to freely choose which workers to employ, whether human or robot, regardless of their place of birth or construction.

    South Korea, known for its advancements in the robot industry, is experiencing a convergence of labor market challenges. As imported Chinese robots flood the market, they are displacing domestic androids produced by South Korean firms. This disruption in the market has prompted concerns among local robot manufacturers who struggle to compete with the lower prices offered by the imported robots. Although the Chinese robots may be less technologically advanced, their affordability makes them increasingly appealing to businesses.

    The South Korean government has been actively encouraging the transition from robotic labor to human labor in low-level manual tasks. To facilitate this transition, the government provides subsidies that do not differentiate between Korean-made robots and those imported from elsewhere. The lack of distinction is what upsets domestic robot manufacturers, as they perceive their businesses to be at a disadvantage.

    The parallel between South Korea’s robot industry and America’s immigration debate is striking. In both cases, the answer is not to restrict immigration or imports but rather to allow businesses the freedom to choose their preferred workers, be they human or robotic, regardless of their origin. The rise of robots in the labor market is not unique to South Korea; the trend is also making its way to America. However, South Korea’s example serves as a reminder that debates on foreign versus domestic labor are far from over.

    In conclusion, the challenges faced by South Korea’s robot manufacturing industry highlight the complexities of labor markets in the age of automation. While the government’s subsidies may need reevaluation, the ultimate solution lies in embracing the freedom of choice for businesses to determine the best workers for their needs, irrespective of nationality or construction.


    1. Androids: Humanoid robots designed to resemble humans in appearance and behavior.
    2. Subsidies: Financial assistance provided by the government to support a particular industry or activity.
    3. Labor markets: The interaction between employers and employees in determining wages, working conditions, and employment opportunities.

    – Financial Times
    – Nikkei Asia