Monday, August 12, 2013

A Moral Responsibility to Cooperate with International Society - South Korea's Case to Share its Economic Development Experience

The people I interviewed include Kim, Hyekyung, former Secretary to the President for Civil Society. She is recognized as “one of the national leading authorities on civil society and international development”. I wanted to talk with her on my subject because she is the one who worked both in civil society and in the government. I thought that she would have perspectives on the government policy from both civilian and government sides. I interviewed her at Coffee Bean near Shinsa metro station. I introduced myself as a PhD student in political science at the George Washington University, and asked first about South Korea’s foreign aid policy. Before she answered my question, she reminded me of that she was not in charge of South Korea’s foreign aid policy under the Lee administration, and had been away from international development for a while. She emphasized two roles of South Korea’s foreign aid to developing countries: compliance with the international standard, and a transfer of South Korea’s own development experience. She said that it would be important for South Korea’s aid policy to be consistent with the international standard on the one hand. On the other hand, she said that we also should transfer our own development experience to developing countries. Developing countries want to learn South Korea’s economic development experience. 

As we know, South Korea developed very rapidly from one of the poorest country after the Korean War in 1950 to big economies now. Thus, we should be able to share our own development experience with the other developing countries that want to learn the experience. South Korea’s rapid economic development through 1970s and 1980s is sometimes called “The Miracle of Han River”. Many factors are mentioned as the ones to contribute to the economic growth. Some indicates a government-led industrial policy. For example, the Korea Development Bank was the government-owned bank to “finance and manage major industrial projects to expedite industrial development and enhance the national economy” (Wikipedia).  

Han River

The Korea Development Bank

Another expert in international development I interviewed includes Nam, Young-sook, a professor at the department of international studies at Ewah Womans University. She said that South Korea has begun to consider national standing, and international norms such as endeavor to fight with poverty in developing countries. She said that China also began to consider morality an important element in national policy as its economy develops. She said that as a state develops into a stronger one, it should consider its responsibility in international society and morality. To assume responsibility in international society may not be an end in itself. For a s ate to take a responsibility in international society can be connected a national benefit as well, such as economic profits. As she is recently interested in social enterprise, she explained South Korea’s standing in the perspective of what she calls “responsible competitiveness”. Nowadays, a company that pursues profits should consider social responsibility in society. Likewise, international norms make a state consider social responsibility these days. Thus, South Korea’s recent rigor to participate in international society’s effort to reduce poverty and to make international public goods may be able to be understood in similar vein. I could gain some perspectives from those two experts in international development and Korea’s foreign aid policy. 

Seok Joon Kim, PhD candidate in Political Science,
Sigur Center 2013 Summer Research Fellow,
Seoul, South Korea

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