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Knowledge: a Korean Recipe for Growth

By - Mar 19 2015

korea blog

What are the ingredients for economic growth? Is it strong institutions? Mature markets? Entrepreneurial workforces? Though all such factors play a part, this recipe is missing what Mr. Jong-hyun Nam, Director of the Export-Import Bank of Korea’s Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP), considers essential to development: knowledge. A focus shared nationwide by Korean entities looking to spur development around the world, this focus on knowledge is evident in the country’s partnerships with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). From piloting smart grids in Ecuador, to strengthening citizen security policy in Colombia, to building capacity and learning around urban development in Brazil, the KSP alone reflects Korea’s belief in knowledge and in sharing its development experience as a vehicle for development. To celebrate ten years of collaboration with Korea and the IDB’s upcoming Annual Meeting of the Boards of Governors in Busan, hear from Mr. Nam as he tells a story of growth, learning, and partnership.

 IDB: Korea has transformed itself from an aid-recipient country to a donor country by achieving unprecedented growth within the past half century. How did knowledge sharing play a role?

KSP: Korea’s incredible economic growth in the past fifty years has made it an example to developing countries, but it is key to note that the experience of learning from other developed nations during that time was vital in helping Korea perform this economic miracle.

With United States’ aid, in the form of both financial resources and knowledge sharing with Harvard University, Korea established the Korea Development Institute (KDI) in 1971. Since then, the organization has served as Korea’s representative think tank, contributing to the establishment of many important institutions and government policies. If this United States’ aid came only in financial support, the creation of KDI, and all of its achievements and contributions, would likely not exist.

Based on this experience, I believe that utilizing knowledge sharing is not a choice, but an obligation for countries wishing to accelerate development, as knowledge is indeed a catalyst for transformation. It was our own growth experience, and the recognition that knowledge sharing fueled it, that planted the idea for the Korea Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP), and reinforced Korea’s belief in the effectiveness it may have.

 

IDB: The Korea Knowledge Sharing Program is a testament to Korea’s belief in knowledge sharing as a tool for development. How can LAC create a knowledge-friendly climate and improve its knowledge sharing practices?

KSP: Despite what seems to be an international consensus, the importance of knowledge sharing isn’t widely enough acknowledged in LAC. I do believe that a knowledge-friendly climate in the region stands to make a great impact on its development, and thus I’d like to discuss how LAC countries can look to Korea and its tool, the KSP, as they foster one at home

For its developing partner countries, the KSP has a unique perspective unshared by other developed nations. Unlike its fellow knowledge providers, Korea transformed itself from an aid-recipient to a donor within only half a century, giving it recent practical experience that can prove valuable for LAC. However, Korea’s applicable development stories aren’t sufficiently disseminated in the region, likely due to the geographic divide that has cooled each continent’s interest in the other.

Joint consulting by the KSP and the IDB could be an effective channel for publicizing the role of knowledge in Korea’s development, and for disseminating Korea’s relevant good practices in LAC. Due to its closeness and solid government relationships, the IDB understands what LAC’s needs. And due to its recent development experience, Korea knows how to meet them, minimizing trial and errors based on its own past. If the two entities strengthen their cooperation in LAC and if, more importantly, LAC becomes more aware of Korea’s development experience, an atmosphere conducive to knowledge sharing can be created.

 

IDB: Triangular and South-South Cooperation (SSC) is increasingly common. At the same time, LAC’s development context is diversifying quickly, with some countries experiencing rapid growth and others still grappling with very traditional development challenges. How can some of these fast growers utilize SSC or Triangular Cooperation to uplift other countries?

KSP: LAC is one of the most dynamic regions in the world, experiencing rapid development in the last ten years. Some countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Chile, have become representative emerging countries, and join donor groups to represent their regional peers.

This is ideal from an aid effectiveness perspective. Characterized by linguistic and cultural similarities, LAC countries also share related political, economic, and social contexts. A deep understanding of the status and needs of partner countries is key to effective development support, and in this manner, South-South Cooperation among LAC countries or Triangular Cooperation via international institutions with sufficient experiences in the region, is critical.

As for uplifting fellow developing countries, fast growers can share successful internal policies with their neighbors. For example, Brazil has a conditional Cash Transfer Program (CTP) which originally aimed to support the education of Brazilian children in need. Brazil expanded the program to other neighboring countries after proving its effectiveness, an approach which worked well to improve the social environments of those countries.

Fast growers may also share their experiences with other countries through Triangular Cooperation. Specifically, those successfully participating in joint KSP-IDB can share case studies with other countries, providing them with opportunities to cooperate with the Korean government or relevant international organizations. Moreover, fast growers themselves could assume a donor role as well.

I believe that KSP is an excellent Triangular Cooperation tool for LAC countries. With a historical background sharing such qualities as a colonial period and civil wars, Korea and LAC’s similarities can make for great synergy. And in collaborating with the IDB, who has accumulated development projects in LAC and who has a unique knowledge of the region, the impact would be transformative.

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