Korea in the world seen through statistics

Korea has undergone a major economic transformation, achieving remarkable growth over the past six decades and going from the one of the poorest countries buried under the ashes of the Korean War to the world’s 15th largest economy in 2010. Last year, the country garnered recognition in the global arena by hosting the first G20 Summit to ever take in Asia, where it played a leading role as arbitrator between advanced and developing countries.

The two articles “Korea in the world seen through statistics,” tracks and presents key statistics to review Korea’s global presence in different sectors and assess past achievements, based on a report issued by Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) on October 30.

Ever-growing presence of Korean talent in world businesses, international organizations

According to KOSTAT, Koreans active in the international public sector, namely international organizations, has almost tripled in a decade, from 139 in 1999 to 398 this year. During the same period, the number of Koreans taking over the higher echelon of international agencies — senior positions above the director-level (D-level) — has also increased from ten to 37.

A total of 116 Korean employees are currently working at the United Nations headquarters including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was reelected to lead the UN for a second term this June — in contrast to the situation two decades ago, when Korean held none of the working positions.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the general debate of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 (Photo: Yonhap News).

The situation is not so different in other international organizations including UNICEF and IAEA where an ever-increasing proportion of Korean officers have been filling posts and contributed to the needs of people and nations worldwide.

On November 2, Kim Jong-an, a former trademark examiner of the Intellectual Property Tribunal of Korea, was appointed to the newly created position of director for the International Trademarks Promotion in the Brands and Designs Sector of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). More recently, celebrated Korean travel writer Han Bi-ya was appointed to serve as advisor to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

Koreans who choose to indulge in interesting and challenging employment opportunities abroad are steadily on the rise as well. According to the Human Resources Development Service of Korea, employment abroad of Korean citizens through the organization-run program in 2010 climbed by 73.1% year-on-year from 1,571 to 2,719. If in the past Koreans were favored for their diligence, today’s Koreans are regarded for displaying global initiative and commitment, showcasing their talent and interacting with a global audience.

The increasing number of startup overseas by ethnic Koreans is also significant. Forever 21, founded by Chang Do-won and his wife Jin-sook after they left Korea in 1981 in search of the American dream, has grown into one of the fastest-growing retailers. Mr. and Mrs. Chang now operate around 500 branches worldwide, competing along other affordable fashion brands such as Zara and H&M, and together their names are listed as 88th richest on the Forbes 400.

Korea seeks to pay it forward to the world

From liberation in 1945 until the early 1990s, Korea received diverse forms of development assistance from the international community, which served as a valuable advantage in its miraculous economic growth, known as “Miracle on the Hangang River,” possible. The transformation from aid recipient to donor nation aroused international attention and still remains the only exemplar model.

An ever-increasing number of citizen volunteers participate in the KOICA outreach aid program as World Friends Korea (Photos courtesy of KOICA).

The Korean government has spared no efforts to ‘pay it forward’ to the international community by gradually expanding official development assistance geared towards developing countries. As a country that is more familiar with the stage of development than any other developed countries, the Republic of Korea has volunteered to play an active role in narrowing the gap between the developed and the developing countries — partly through the inclusion of development issues in the adoption of the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth, during the G20 Seoul Summit.

To this end, civic efforts have been also carried out and a rising number of Korean citizens volunteer for grant aid programs implemented by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and other private non-profit organizations. According to the society index published by Statistics Korea in 2010, the number of volunteers who participated in the KOICA outreach program abroad increased ten-fold from 103 in 1999 to 1,000 in 2009. The figure for Good Neighbors, the international humanitarian and development NGO, is even more dramatic, having increased from 16 in 2000 to 619 in 2010.

The number of IT volunteers sponsored by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security who were sent to help 20 countries introduce computer skills to locals has steadily swelled since its introduction in 2001, tripling from 175 in its first year to 548 in 2010.

President Lee Myung-bak joined Worlds Friends Korea in some of the volunteer work during his state visit to Ethiopia in July. Throughout his three -state visit in Africa, President Lee pledged to share Korea’s development experience and reinforce ties in advancing sustainable growth as a development cooperation partner (Photos courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Korea will host the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan from November 29 to December 1, to define a new paradigm for aid and development and discuss ways to improve the architecture of global aid in line with advancing the UN Millennium Development Goals of eradicating poverty and realizing sustainable development. The Korean government will make every effort to bridge the gap once again between developed and developing countries, as well as traditional and emerging donors, during the Busan Forum.

For more information, please visit the official website at: www.aideffectiveness.org/busanhlf4 (Korean, English, French, and Spanish).

By Hwang Dana
Korea.net Staff Writer

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