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  • The Republic of Korea has achieved remarkable success in combining rapid economic growth with significant poverty reduction. Now a global leader in innovation and technology, Korea offers development experience that inspires many developing countries.

    The government of Korea’s policies resulted in real gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 7.3% annually between 1960 and 2019. This strong performance was fueled by annual export growth of 16.2% on average from 1961–2018, while savings and investment both rose to above 30% of GDP.

    Korea is an exceptional example of an aid-recipient transforming into a high-income country, with its gross national income (GNI) per capita increasing rapidly from US$67 in the early 1950s to over US$30,000 in 2018. Now the world’s 12th largest economy, Korea is a key development partner of the World Bank Group and an important contributor to the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund that supports the world’s poorest countries.

    The government of Korea began contributing to IDA in 1977. As Korea positioned itself for an enhanced international role, the government increased its IDA contributions, entered into a co-financing framework agreement with the Bank, and created multiple trust funds.

    Korea was the first former aid recipient to become a member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Korea joined the DAC in November 2009. Korea also took the chairmanship of the G20 summit in 2010.

    Korea's experience provides lessons that can benefit many developing countries – in sustainable development, provision of infrastructure and better services to improve the lives of the people, and transition to a dynamic knowledge economy.

    In 2020, two flagship events on innovation and technology – Global Innovative Growth Forum, co-organized with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, as well as Korea Innovation Week – showcased progress in partnerships and programs of the World Bank Group Korea office.

    Last Updated: May 29, 2020

  • World Bank Governor

    Each member country is represented within the World Bank Group by a governor, who is generally the finance minister or the minister of development of the country concerned, and whose powers extend in particular to authorizing capital increases, approving financial statements, accepting or electing to suspend new members at the annual meetings. The governor for Korea is Nam-ki Hong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance.

    World Bank Executive Director

    The governor delegates responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day business of Korea’s interests at the World Bank to the Executive Director (ED) for Australia, Cambodia, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated State of Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. EDs reside in Washington, D.C. and normally meet twice a week to decide on borrowing and financial questions, projects, and policies that impact World Bank Group general operations.  Kunil Hwang is the current ED. Gerard Antioch serves as alternate executive director.

    Shares and Voting Power

    The member countries of the World Bank Group have a given number of shares in the capital of the institution of which they are members; this number of shares determines their voting power when decisions are reached by the Board of Executive Directors.

    Korea holds 1.66% of the shares in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) with 1.60% of voting powers. It holds 0.98% of the voting power in the International Development Association (IDA). Korea has a 1.1% subscriptions in the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with 1.07% of voting powers. Finally, Korea holds 0.45% of the shares and 0.47% of the voting power in the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

    For the latest voting status, please visit the Voting Powers page.

    For information on Korea’s aid flows as a donor, please visit AidFlows.

    Last Updated: May 29, 2020

  • In 1955, The Republic of Korea became a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the part of the World Bank that lends to governments of middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries. In 1961, Korea joined the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s arm to assist the poorest countries.

    The Bank began its operations in Korea in 1962 when it completed the first Country Economic Report and approved an IDA credit of US$17 million to expand and improve the Korean National Railroad.

    By 1973, Korea’s economy had progressed sufficiently to require no further IDA assistance. The Bank then supported Korea through low-interest loans, policy advice, and technical assistance from IBRD.

    Over the years, from IDA and IBRD, the Bank completed 133 credit or loan projects in Korea, disbursing funds totaling US$15 billion.

    The Bank’s work in Korea evolved to match the country’s changing needs. In the early years, the Bank focused on lending for agriculture, irrigation, rural development, small and medium industry, transportation (such as roads, ports, and railways), regional and urban development, and education. Investment in agriculture increased substantially in the 1970s, and then declined in the 1980s as the economy shifted to a greater emphasis on industrial development. Priorities on human capital accumulation evolved as the economy demanded more skilled labor and research and development (R&D) for science and technology.

    Later, social infrastructure – such as urban water supply, sanitation, and sewerage – and its environmental impact became a high priority as the country’s industrial sector and its energy and transportation infrastructure became more developed. During this period, heavy emphasis was placed on achieving greater social equity through a fair distribution of income and wealth.

    During the financial crisis of the late 1990s, the World Bank supported the government of Korea’s reform programs through a series of adjustment loans, worth a total of US$7 billion. These programs ranged from financial sector restructuring to reforms in corporate sector and labor market reforms as well as in social safety nets. The reforms helped make the country’s economic model more sustainable and resilient to economic downturns.

    Currently, the World Bank Group hosts a range of partnerships and joint projects with Korean partners to help developing countries enhance financial sector management; promote investment in green growth innovation – in energy, the environment, and urban development/land management; share know-how in information communication technology; and assist fragile and conflict-affected states.

    For example, the Korea-World Bank Partnership Facility, launched in 2012, provides US$90 million over three years and a replenishment of US$140 million from FY20 through FY23 to finance global and regional projects that support economic development and co-financing investments at the country level. The emphasis is on generating and transferring development best practices, with low and lower middle-income countries eligible for funding under the new facility.

    In December 2013, the World Bank Group opened a new main office in Songdo, Incheon and a liaison office in Seoul. From 2014 to 2018, the offices supported a broad range of development partnership opportunities with a focus on promoting best practices. This was achieved by leveraging the Bank Group’s knowledge and convening power as well as Korea’s expertise in areas such as green growth, financial innovation, private sector development, and technology and innovation.

    The Korea office has continued to expand, with a greater emphasis on supporting the operational work across sectors. For example, the green growth innovation program, jointly with the Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF), built an operational and analytical program to support the green growth agenda in developing countries.

    In April 2018, the World Bank and the government of Korea agreed to a three-year extension of the World Bank Group Korea Office Trust Fund Agreement. While continuing to solidify the knowledge partnership, the Korea office has expanded its operational support on innovation and technology and aimed to broaden and strengthen partnerships with the Korean partners. A focus on mobilizing private sector investment will also be pursued through the Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

    With continued progress, the World Bank Group Korea office will play a bridging role in facilitating the partnership between Korea and the World Bank Group as well as partners around the world.

    Last Updated: May 29, 2020

Additional Resources

Country Office Contact

37F. Boo Young Songdo Tower 2, 241, Incheon tower-daero, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, Korea
Incheon, 82-32-713-7000
Washington, 202-473-4709
1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433