ASIAN SEED − 31 Nurturing the Seedlings for Public-Private Harmonization About the time I became director, in 1994, of South Korea’s National Horticultural Research Institute (NHRI) Veg- etable Breeding Division, the healthy, collaborative tradition that had developed between NHRI and private seed companies was somewhat in danger of collapse. First, the majority of our high- er-rank officers in research-poli- cy formation and budgeting had backgrounds in rice and other field crops. With field crops, ev- ery step from variety breeding to seed production and distribution was taken care of by govern- mental and/or semi-governmen- tal organizations. They did not understand the differences and kept asking my division to breed cultivars for farmers’ immediate use. That would, in effect, be like running a national seed com- pany – which must live with bureaucratic inefficiency and thus hardly be able to compete against private companies. Second, my division had been designated to run official per- formance evaluation of vege- table varieties bred by private companies and quality testing of seed produced by them for distribution to farmers. The field and lab tests were mandat- ed by the Seed and Seedling Dr. Jin Young Yoon served as an APSA Exec- utive Committee Member from 2012–2013, and is a highly respected seedsman in Korea. Control Law. This regulatory control role over the vege- table seed business did not harmonize with our hope of collaborating with them. Looking back to its very inception in the early 1950s (when the country was suffering from a serious shortage of vegetable seed), NHRI collected and eval- uated vegetable varieties, releasing well-performing selections to private com- panies. The companies, in turn, began their business by multiplying and then commercially distributing seed to farmers. NHRI soon began hybrid breeding of important veg- etables, including Chinese cabbage, cabbage and onion (applying self-incom- patibility in the former two crops, and male sterility in the third). By the early 1960s, NHRI was able to release to private compa- nies for commercial seed production the parental lines of those crops’ F1 hybrids, together with tech- nology for breeding and seed production. In order to restore, and further improve, the collab- orative relationship between my division and private vegetable seed business- es, I spent a lot of energy and time persuading people in and around the governmental hierar- chy handling organizational structure, personnel administra- tion and budgeting. Colleagues in my division shared the same position with me on this issue, and I was lucky to find some in- fluential supporters in the Rural Development Administration (to which NHRI belongs) and the Ministry of Agriculture. We finally were allowed to hand over regulatory duty of seed testing and variety evaluation to the Office of Seed Production and Distribution in 1995, and my division then was able to aim at playing the role of clear- ing house for both public and private sector groups involved in vegetable breeding and the seed business. The mandate for government research in the area of vegeta- ble breeding was re-set so that most outcomes would return to taxpayers through finished breeding by the private sector: The following three areas were emphasized: 1.) Search for – and develop- ment of – genetic resources to breed for disease resis- tance and other biotic/abiotic stresses. 2.) Breeding for a long term strategy of labor-saving and farm mechanization. 3.) Finished-variety breeding of crops private companies hesitate to invest in because of high risk, including asexually propagated crops such as strawberry and garlic; development of tools and techniques for breeding, includ- ing that for molecular marker and transformation. In the three decades since, I have observed with delight – and the proud feeling of being a ground-layer – the evolving changes in collab- orative interaction between private and public sectors. Now, collaboration is well-re- alized through projects such as Seed Valley, the Golden Seed Project, Next Gener- ation Biogreen 21, and the Vegetable Breeding Research Center, among others, funded and implemented jointly by the government and private research/business circles. I still hope to see more lead- ership from the private sector, more collaboration with Ko- rea-based multinational com- panies, involvement of world- class research groups outside Korea, and nurturing startups – then weaning them from their nurtures – in order to guarantee maximum possible efficiency among joint projects. eed For Thought