The economic growth and social development of Korea in the last 60 years has been truly phenomenal. In 1948, when the government was first established, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, it has advanced to a global economic player with a solid industrial base. In the mean time, democracy and pluralism have taken a firm root in the Korean society.
Korea’s achievement is often called a ‘miracle.’ It should be admitted, however, that Korea has had its fair share of failures as well as successes. In particular, it failed to prepare itself for the challenges arising from rapid changes in the global economic environment in the early 1990s. Today, faced with even greater challenges, Korea needs, among others, a careful study of its own experience. Such a study will also hold relevance for other developing countries that are faced with similar challenges.
Two years ago, the Committee on the Sixty-year History of the Korean Economy was organized, embarking on an ambitious project to highlight Korea’s past progress, review major issues, and draw lessons. The project was sponsored by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and has involved many research institutions.
Two years ago, the Korean government decided to launch a project for documenting the 60-year history of the Korean economic development by synthesizing all existing literature on Korea’s development. Broadly speaking, the government initiated this project with two main purposes.
First, the government wanted to properly document the Korean economic development history, which is important in itself. For this purpose, we emphasized the importance of a thorough and comprehensive survey of all the relevant existing literature to synthesize and produce a complete bibliographical list for all major topic areas.
The second purpose is to provide useful lessons which can be inferred from Korean experiences. Obviously, it would be very useful for domestic policymakers to understand the reasons for successes and failures of past policies and strategies. Internationally, as I stressed earlier, many follower nations’ policymakers can refer to the Korean case for their own policy-making. In this regard, I would like to draw their special attention to the Korea’s currency crisis of the 1990s as to why Korea ran into the crisis and how Korea could overcome it rather speedily.
For this project, we have mobilized most of important government think-tanks and many leading scholars and experts in this endeavor. Today we would like to solicit your thoughtful comments and inputs which would greatly contribute towards making this project more complete and credible.
Dr. Il SaKong – Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the G20 Seoul Summit, Chairman & CEO of the Institute for Global Economics, a private nonprofit research institute based in Seoul.
Dr. SaKong served in the government of the Republic of Korea as Minister of Finance (1987-88), Senior Secretary to the President for Economic Affairs (1983-87), Senior Counselor to the Minister of Economic Planning Board (1982) and Senior Economist of the Council on Economic & Scientific Affairs for the President (1979-80). During his tenure at these key posts in the Korean government, Dr. SaKong played the leading role in framing and implementing Korea's most successful development strategy and
economic policies of the 1980s. He also served the Korean government as Ambassador for International Economy and Trade (2000-02), Member of the Council of National Economic Affairs for the President (2001-02), and Senior Member of the Council of National Economic Affairs for the President (2003-04).
Before joining the Korean government, Dr. SaKong was Senior Fellow, Research Director, and Vice-President at the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the leading national economic think-tank for the Korean government (1973-1982). Dr. SaKong also served as President of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET), another national think-tank (1983).
Dr. SaKong was Special Consultant to the International Monetary Fund (1989-98). He was Chair of the ASEM Vision Group, established at the 1998 ASEM Summit in London.
Youngsun Koh – Senior Research Fellow, Korea Development Institute.