©Rights reserved, Korean government service

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Korea’s membership in the OECD. Korea joined the OECD in 1996, following its membership to the World Trade Organization in 1995 as part of its globalisation efforts, and has thereafter risen as a full-fledged middle power, actively contributing to the international community. 

In 2016, we celebrate Korea’s 20th anniversary of OECD membership. Throughout this time, Korea has achieved impressive convergence in living standards towards the Organisation’s top performers. In fact, as this special anniversary edition shows, from being one of the poorest countries in the world half a century ago, Korea is now the world’s 11th largest economy and 6th largest exporter. It is home, not only to some of the world’s most famous household brands, from cars to smartphones, but to the K-pop and fashion wave that has seduced young people everywhere. No wonder people refer to Korea’s transformation as “the Miracle on the Han River”.

©Marco Illuminati/OECD

Twenty years of age is often regarded as the threshold of adulthood. Coming-of-age celebrations vary across cultures, but the common understanding is that once you become an adult, you are expected to be a mature and responsible member of the society. 

This year, 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of Korea’s accession to the OECD. In the meantime, Korea has continued to grow, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, yielding a remarkable outcome that befits the ranks of the OECD countries. Korea has one of the most impressive economic growth performances among the OECD countries, with its economic size now almost three times greater than it was at the time of accession. As of today, Korea proudly ranks as the 8th OECD country in terms of economic size. 

The Internet is now an essential part of our lives and a critical element of the world economy. Internet penetration increased almost sevenfold in the past 15 years, from 6.5% of the world population in 2000 to 43% in 2015.

Despite nearly a decade of policy efforts, the global economy remains in the repair shop. The legacies of the crisis are still very much present: weak growth, persistently high unemployment in several countries, faltering trade and investment and a profound loss of public confidence and trust. Any prospect of a strong upturn in advanced or emerging economies has dimmed in the past year. But we may be getting closer to finding solutions by focusing on the roots of the problems.

Food is a basic requirement of life and fundamental to our well-being. Nevertheless, as humanity becomes more urbanised, agriculture and farming tend to be neglected. This is dangerous. The OECD Agriculture Ministerial meeting taking place on 7-8 April aims precisely at preventing this by helping define a new policy paradigm for a more productive, competitive and sustainable food system for all.

If hard-won agreement was the headline of 2015, implementation will be the feature for 2016. Agreements make the news; their implementation improves people’s lives.


When I launched the OECD’s 2011 Economic Survey of Ireland, the Irish economy was in the depths of a deep recession. Two years ago, the clouds were beginning to clear. Today, I am delighted to see how far and how quickly the country has bounced back.

The UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris 30 November-11 December is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reach a new international agreement to combat climate change and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy. World leaders attending the summit are aware of the urgency we face. However, to judge by their national contributions pledged so far, more ambition will be needed to keep global temperatures from rising above the agreed limit of 2ºC. The “carbon entanglement” of our economies is keeping us on a collision course with nature.

Nearly seven years have passed since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, marking the start of the worst financial and economic crisis in living memory. Although the worst is behind us and the global economy is gradually recovering, it is doing so at a much slower pace than in past cycles. Plenty of work and concerted effort will be needed to set us on a robust, inclusive growth path. 

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Chair of the 2015 Ministerial Council Meeting ©Nia Palli

This year’s OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, which we are honoured to chair, will address the issue of investment. The timing could not be better. Growth prospects have improved, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales ©John Paul/Australian Women's Weekly

The international discussions under way in the course of this vital year–including July’s Finance for Development Meeting in Addis Ababa, the agreement of a new set of universal Sustainable Development Goals at the UN in September and the climate change summit in Paris at the end of 2015–represent a remarkable and unprecedented opportunity to establish what might be called a “Magna Carta for the earth” for our times.

The terrorist murders of 17 people in Paris on 7, 8 and 9 January were not only a human tragedy. They were a direct attack on the values of living together in the free, law-abiding, pluralistic societies we hold dear. 

Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny (Click to expand) ©Eric Piermont/AFP

After three years of sacrifice, hard work and difficult reform, Ireland has fought its way out of the depths of the financial crisis to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and one of the best countries in the world in which to do business.

Australia's Joe Hockey listens to OECD Secretary-General Gurría © OECD Flickr

“Life is full of alternatives but no choice.” G20 leaders at the summit in Brisbane, Australia, in November should reflect on these words by Australian writer Patrick White, a Nobel Laureate, as they prepare their economic strategies for the years to come.

Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and G20 Sherpa ©OECD

The Australian G20 presidency has made a critical and decisive contribution to reinforcing the effectiveness and impact of the Group of 20 (G20). Under Australia’s chairmanship, the work of the G20 has gained in coherence and strength, which should reinforce our joint efforts to boost and sustain future growth. Our organisation is proud to have contributed significantly to these achievements.

Heather Smith, Australian Sherpa to the G20 ©G20 Australia

Each G20 presidency faces its own challenges. A presidency must respond to global economic conditions, it must build on previous work, and it must seize opportunities to progress with reforms where members can reach consensus.

The clouds are lifting, but we must work harder together for the crisis to clear

Japan's 50th anniversary at the OECD in covers

©Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan

Japan gained OECD membership in 1964, the same year it hosted the summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Its entry into the organisation is significant in three main ways. The first is historical: Japan’s joining the OECD, which followed the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1954 and entering GATT in 1955, signalled its successful transformation into a fully industrialised economy. 


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Japan’s membership of the OECD. Japan joined our organisation on 28 April 1964, marking a significant milestone as the first Asian country to do so. 

Could the recovery from the worst crisis in half a century finally take hold in 2014? There are several encouraging signs, not least in the US, where growth is expected to accelerate towards 3% in 2014. Activity is also picking up in Europe, Japan and China. Ireland has successfully exited the IMF/EU/ECB-supported programme.

A welcome sense of cautious optimism is building around the preparations for the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg in September, setting the tone for policymakers to take a renewed interest in coordinating their national action agendas to address pressing global challenges.

The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.

To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary edition of the OECD Observer, we take a brief look at how the information world and the global economy have transformed since the OECD’s first secretary-general, Thorkil Kristensen, launched the magazine in November 1962.  

©OECD, Pittsburgh G20 summit 2009

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría has congratulated Barack Obama on his re-election as US president. Mr Gurría said the OECD was proud to have worked with President Obama and his team over the past four years, both on the home front and in international fora such as the G8 and G20 (our photo).

Two decades ago, when the first Rio Earth Summit took place in 1992, the most advanced economies were in an economic downturn. It was not as severe as the crisis many countries have endured since 2008, but asset bubbles had burst, unemployment had risen and recovery seemed a remote prospect.


Having left the most difficult years of the global crisis behind us, it is now universally recognised that Turkey is one of the countries which has managed to put its economy back on the path to strong growth in a short period of time. 

Economic data


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