Korea and the OECD: A decade of progress

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy, Korea*

Deputy Prime Minister Okyu Kwon ©OECD/David Sterboul

In 1996 just when the Korean government took the initiative and worked hard to join the OECD, some media and civil society organisations were reluctant to extend their support. They worried, saying that it would be too premature for Korea to join the rich man’s club and would cause us great losses.

Despite their worries, however, the OECD was a gateway for us to learn from the experiences and knowledge of advanced countries needed for the Korean economy, through peer learning, rule-setting and discussions on global issues. Today, no one would argue that the OECD made itself a landmark in the Korean economy by helping it in advancing the institutions, reforming each and every sector, and thus upgrading the Korean economy.

In particular, the OECD was instrumental in providing us with important guidelines on corporate governance and the financial supervisory system in the course of structural adjustment immediately after the financial crisis in the late 1990s. The Korean government took advantage of the OECD resources in successfully overcoming the crisis through restructuring.

We in the Korean government have a high regard for the OECD as one of the most trustworthy and wisest economic policy counsels. We take the OECD recommendations seriously and integrate them into our own policies as and when appropriate.

A case in point is financial liberalisation. The OECD has been advising us on institutional reform to promote financial liberalisation. […]

When the Financial Investment Services and Capital Market bill we are actively promoting is enacted, barriers between business categories will be torn down, thus expediting the development of financial services.

Another critical area of concern to both the OECD and the Korean government has been labour laws. Just less than two weeks ago, on 11 September to be specific, representatives of labour, management and the government came to an agreement on a package of labour reform bills on advancing labour relations that was under discussion for the past three years.

The agreement is aimed at meeting international standards and boosting flexibility of the labour market. Specifically, it says we have done away with compulsory arbitration. It allows the use of a replacement workforce in case of strikes at essential public services. It also calls on easing the procedures for dismissal for economic reasons. […]

There is no doubt that globalisation and [information technology] have improved the efficiency of the world economy. At the same time, this has brought about concerns on widening disparity between individuals and between nations. New emerging markets led by BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are changing the horizon of the world economy. Policy interest in the quality of life such as public health and environment is also increasing, which I think is relevant and important.

Now the new changes are calling for the OECD to do more. I understand that Secretary-General Angel Gurría has stressed the enhanced role of the OECD in tackling new challenges, such as public health, since he took up his post. This fits well with the new expectations for the OECD, in my view.

Clearly, the OECD enjoys many strengths. They have abundant policy experience and knowledge of member countries, systemic and expert analytical skills, and the inter-disciplinary policy research system encompassing the entire socio-economic field.

Taking the best advantage of its many merits, the OECD should take the lead in helping the international community collectively cope with the new challenges. […]

Drive your way: Secretary-General
Angel Gurría admires Hyundai
Motor Company's shining works in Seoul,
Korea, September 2006.


*The article is extracted from the welcoming address of Korea’s Deputy Prime Minister Okyu Kwon to a special conference in Seoul 22 September 2006, marking Korea’s 10th anniversary in the OECD. The full text of Mr Kwon’s speech can be found at www.oecdobserver.org/korea, and the text of Secretary-General Angel Gurría’s speech, as well as other related documents, are at www.oecd.org/korea.

©OECD Observer No 257, October 2006

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