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Roundtable on Korea

OECD Observer Roundtable on Korea root of a country’s economic development. We are now living in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where new things are created everyday through the fusion of artificial intelligence and bio science, fostering a new technology as a matter of survival rather than choice. The development of new technologies for the future is essential, and these should be generated by individuals and corporations, and supported by the government’s policies.

Korea joined the OECD on 12 December 1996, the first Asian country to become a member of the organisation in over 30 years. By all accounts, the country’s economic transformation has been unprecedented, from one of the poorest countries in the world half a century ago to one of its leading economies. In this OECD Observer Roundtable, we asked a range of experts who have witnessed Korea’s progress over the years: What in your view are Korea’s main achievements of the past two decades, and what challenges would you highlight for the next two?

To a start-up nation Dae-whan Chang, Chairman, Maekyung Media Group*

I believe that Koreans have innovation and creativity in their DNA. If we can successfully bring about an extensive innovation in the above three areas, we will be able to become the centre of the world and build a prosperous future. *The Maekyung Media Group includes the World Knowledge Forum and Maeil Business Newspaper, which were knowledge partners of the OECD Forum in the early 2000s. Visit

In the process of fighting back the financial crisis, Korea luckily seized a chance to rebuild its economy. Korean people strongly united to rescue the sinking economy, voluntarily donating their gold rings and pieces of jewellery, and companies started to gain competitiveness in the world market. Organisations began to seek new growth engines that could sustain them in the future, while boldly carrying out financial and corporate reforms and actively benchmarking global corporate standards.

Towards a quantum leap Seon-joo Kwon, CEO of the Industrial Bank of Korea

Koreans have innovation and creativity in their DNA that had once supported the country’s fast expansion now losing steam. Without innovation, the future of the country will be at stake. Maekyung Media Group has proposed three different innovative ideas that could bode well for Korea over the next 50 years, based on its own recent study. The first one is innovation in leadership. The government and corporate sector have to unify the people and display leadership that can embrace those who are left behind. The second innovation is to transform Korea into a start-up nation. Major companies need to challenge themselves to find businesses, which can become new growth engines for the economy, while small and medium enterprises should strive continuously to expand, based on powerful ideas. Without flexibility, a company will have no future. The third innovation is the development of disruptive technology. Technology is the

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Korea’s economy is facing new challenges in 2016. Externally, it has to find new growth sources within the large flow of global changes sparked by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Domestically, Korea could be locked into low economic growth of 1-2%, with the manufacturing industry

When Korea finally joined the OECD in 1996, no one would expect an OECD badge to be a double-edged sword for the country. Membership certainly paved the way for the Asian country to globalise itself, but the opening-up policy without a proper understanding of, and preparation for, globalisation and open market reforms also took a heavy toll on the country, forcing it to teeter on the edge of bankruptcy during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.


Korea broke the long standing belief that financial crises occur repeatedly in developing countries. Korea has gone through trials over the last 20 years after joining the OECD, but through the process of recovery, the Korean economy has become more stable and sound.

Since joining the OECD as the 29th member in December 1996, Korea has strived to improve its economic fundamentals and upgrade its financial systems to meet global standards. These efforts paid off, allowing the country to achieve remarkable economic growth despite the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. As of 2015, Korea ranked 8th in terms of overall GDP and 12th in terms of the international trade-to-GDP ratio among the 34 OECD member countries. Noticeably, Korea became a member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee in

OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016  
OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016