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The challenge of systemic change:
Volume: 19, Issue 2
Governments of the Republic of Korea have an exemplary record in providing leadership through published visions and strategies. This review is inspired by seven such endeavors conducted since 1999. All of these efforts use the future to motivate changes in the present. However, over time there has been a gradual shift in the content of the visions, revealing an unresolved tension between predictive targets based on benchmarking that is effective for emulation and a recognition that on the frontier of socio-economic change there are no knowable targets. As a result the capacity of strategic foresight processes to bring complexity and emergence to bear on the identification of opportunities in the present becomes more important. The perspective presented in this review can be summarized in three hypotheses: one is that South Korea is now at the frontier of existing socio-economic models and therefore catch-up and benchmarking are no longer sufficient foundations for South Korea's vision, although still highly important for incremental improvement and competitive positioning on already existing markets/organizational aspects of society; two is that recent developments in strategic foresight theory and practice are enhancing the capacity to focus on complex, emergent systems that are rich with unforeseeable novelty and, critically, make a practical connection to the processes of sense making and making sense that are the basis for action; and three that South Korea is in a good position to invest in developing its strategic foresight capabilities on the basis of the outstanding track record of previous efforts to use the future for the benefit of all South Koreans.