Bloomberg Businessweek declared South Korea the second-most innovative country in the world in its annual “Global Innovation Index,” a list of the world’s 50-most innovative countries. Three Asian countries share space in the top 10 with the United States and six European nations.
Bloomberg researchers ranked Korea first in patent activity and third in high-tech density and manufacturing capability. The US took the top spot on the list.
Japan is in sixth place – a drop from last year – and Singapore is at No. 7.
However, Korea and Japan aren't even in the top quarter of another recent innovative countries list, General Electric’s Global Innovation Barometer, which ranks countries on their government, business and educational climates.
Other Asian countries on the Bloomberg Businessweek list are farther back, behind Russia, Australia and Spain – China at No. 29, Hong Kong at No. 36 and Malaysia at No. 37.
The Bloomberg researchers ranked countries on seven weighted factors: R&D intensity (20 percent), productivity (20 percent), high-tech density (20 percent), researcher concentration (20 percent), manufacturing capability (10 percent), education levels (5 percent) and patent activity (5 percent).
South Korea's No. 1 patent ranking is striking for a country with a reputation for conglomerates such as Samsung that are assumed to copy technology, a label that grew when a California court ruled last August that the company's smartphones infringed on Apple's patents.
That stereotype reached its height during the the 1960s to 1980s, when South Korea accumulated wealth in a similar way to China today: by copying the electronics of foreign competitors and selling them at a lower price. If you believe Bloomberg, however, those days are over for Koreans.
Samsung actually registers far more US patents than Apple per year. Although some debate whether the South Korean patents are crucial ones needed to make products, the feat still stands.
The top 10 countries on Bloomberg Businessweek’s Global Innovation Index:
1. United States
2. South Korea
More from GlobalPost: Samsung overtakes Nokia as world's largest cellphone brand