“We in Korea were having similar discussions as the ones being held today in Egypt concerning monetary, economic plans and strategies to put ourselves in the global marketplace,” said Kyung Soon Song, Representative Expert of Korea Consulting Group, at the Innovation in Government Conference on Monday.
In the 1960s, South Korea had the same GDP as Egypt and half the country’s population. Today, however, its GDP is five times that of Egypt, he indicated.
Korea’s situation back in the 1950s was desperate to the extent that it was said that Korea had no future, and it won’t be restored even in a hundred years. The country’s GDP per capita was $67 back in the 1950s. Whereby, in 1961, nominal GDP was $2.36bn. In 2014, however, it reached $1.45tn.
Several structural reforms were undertaken by the Korean government to transform the country from an under performer to a leading industrialised country.
One of the most important aspects that the government focused on was human capital development. Investment in human capital was enhanced and as a result financial capital produced the best results when it was combined with the educated human capital.
Korea had the tradition of employing young people in the government and providing them with significant responsibilities. It gave them future potential and opportunities for growth in the country, he elaborated. Significant investments were also made to develop the educational sector in the country.
Moreover, according to Song, Korea moved from authoritarian regime to democracy. It was not easy and the transformation process is not easy for Egypt either, he noted.
Song further emphasised that the application of the e-government system is vital as it is an important tool in fighting bureaucratic practices.
Egypt has a great potential for growth, and I am very optimistic about the future of the country, as I can see political stability coming in, Song indicated. He further noted that Egypt has opportunities with the availability of the Suez Canal and other factors.
Song nevertheless highlighted that growth in a country should be inclusive, as some countries tend to focus on the manufacturing sector, postponing other important developments and thus eventually creating more social problems.
In a globalised world it is vital to engage with the private sector and to define the specific role of the government as a regulator, Song noted.
Despite the endless obstacles that Korea faced, the war in the 1950s and the economic crisis that the country faced, it managed to become an industrialised country, a high innovator in technology. Moreover, it moved from producing light industries and textiles to heavy industries, automobiles, mobiles and so forth.