Revealed: Secrets of Korean Economic Policy

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 1/12/2012 12:05:00 PM
Well OK, the title of this post is an exaggeration. Still, I believe that I've come across something quite significant for scholars of development. My e-mail inbox tends to get clogged with not only the usual things--manhood enhancement products, cheap vacations and whatnot but also their academic equivalents--invitations to obscure conferences (which you must pay for), invitations to review for obscure journals (which you've never heard of) and so on. Unfortunately, lost among this pile of stuff folks send me to read are a number of very helpful publications.

So, it is with no small pleasure that I've rescued the Korea Development Institute's recent publication From Despair to Hope: Economic Policymaking in Korea: 1945-1979 from the chaos that is my electronic mail account. (A PDF copy is available from the Duke University servers.) Given the prominent role many Western commentators give to the South Korean state in promoting national development, it's only fitting that the author Kim Chung-yum is a longtime public servant--first for the central bank and then later on in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry at the time of the nation's much vaunted take-off.

While there are any number of secondhand accounts of Korea's success story, this one is obviously a firsthand one that is proving to be quite informative the more I read it. Certainly South Korea has gone in and out of fashion. From being lauded as an Asian tiger during the Eighties it was subsequently disparaged in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis as it was eventually forced to take out an IMF bailout. The important thing though is that its highly competent civil service has been quite instrumental in helping right the international prospects for Korean products when called for. Hence Samsung for instance being a "model company" in today's world economy.

Especially for policymakers involved in development, I hope there are nuggets to be gleaned here for you. Yes the Korean case is not universally applicable, but there are certainly practices which may be transferable and beneficial from all those years ago.