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FEATURE STORY March 6, 2020

Korea Innovation Week: Integrating Disruptive Technologies into the Development Agenda


World Bank Group hosted Korea Innovation Week at the World Bank Group's headquarters. 

Photo: © World Bank Group


  • The World Bank’s Executive Director for Korea, the Vice President of the East Asia and Pacific, the WBG Korea Office and Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) of the Republic of Korea co-hosted the World Bank Group-Korea Partnership Week for Innovation and Technology (Korea Innovation Week).
  • The event showcased the partnership between the World Bank Group and the Republic of Korea and explored new areas of partnerships to support developing countries in harnessing innovation and technology for development.
  • Up to 50 partner institutions participated in the event, led by Korea’s Vice Minister of Economy and Finance.

Korea Innovation Week was held at the WBG’s headquarters in Washington D.C., from February 18 to 20, 2020. Through plenary sessions, thematic workshops, interactive information booths and culinary events, the three-day event offered a variety of experiences from Korea’s innovative technologies to cultural diversity. World Bank Global Practices participated in and supported six thematic workshops and exhibitions.

The delegation from Korea of around 140 officials led by the Yongbeom Kim, First Vice Minister of MOEF, attended the event. Officials from the Ministry of Science and ICT, Ministry of Employment and Labor, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT), Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), and Ministry of Environment (MOE) were part of the delegation.

"Korea is also an important source of knowledge and innovation. We are working together on cutting-edge development topics such as green growth, financial innovation, private sector development, and technology and innovation. The WBG Korea office serves as an anchor for our collaboration. "
Victoria Kwakwa
Vice President for East and Pacific Region, World Bank


Korea Innovation Week attracted approximately 245 external participants. 

Photo: © World Bank Group

During the opening plenary session, the speakers highlighted Korea's active engagement to support developing countries and noted the importance of WBG-Korea partnership on innovation and technology.

“Korea is a country which has transformed from the poorest to the wealthy and from the labor-intensive industry to the knowledge-driven industry and inspires many countries,” said Shaolin Yang, Managing Director and Chief Administrative Officer, WBG.

Yongbeom Kim, First Vice Minister of Korea’s MOEF added that, “Korea’s experience in technology and innovation can contribute to achieving the World Bank’s two goals of poverty reduction and shared prosperity.”

Sharing Korea’s practical development experience in innovation and technology

In the plenary session, opening remarks were followed by a keynote speech titled “From Perspiration to Inspiration” by Shahid Yusuf, Chief Economist of the Growth Dialogue. He addressed Korea’s economic development history and approaches to building science technology and innovation capabilities.

Hoon Sahib Soh, WBG Korea Office Special Representative, presented Korea’s successful development from aid recipient to a major donor and highlighted key partnerships between the World Bank Group and Korea on innovation and technology.

Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank’s Vice President for EAP Region, moderating a plenary panel discussion, noted that Korea’s global leadership in innovation and technology will be increasingly important for supporting developing countries.  She was joined in the panel by the Vice President Akihiko Nishio of Development Finance, Vice President Karin Finkelston of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Dean Kookheon Chair of the College of Engineering of Seoul National University, Executive Director Sanghoon Ahn of the Korea Development Institute (KDI), and managing partner Ted Jeong of Kensington-SV Global Innovations, a venture capital firm.

The plenary session was followed by a series of thematic workshops and bilateral meetings that took place up to February 20. Information booths in the atrium of the main World Bank headquarter building also allowed World Bank staff members to interact with Korean partner institutions. The thematic workshops were organized around five thematic topics:

  • Digital economy and 5G: The digital economy and 5G thematic workshops shared Korea's experience with digital technology, including the world's first commercialization of 5G and the “Global Epidemic Prevention Platform” developed by KT that uses digital technologies, such as Big Data and artificial intelligence, to track infectious diseases.
  • Smart cities: In the joint seminars of the World Bank and MOLIT, the Korean institutions working on smart cities (Korea Land and Housing Corporation, Korea Water Resources Corporation, Korea Overseas Infrastructure and Urban Development Corporation, and Korea Land and Geospatial Informatix Corporation) showcased Korea's urban development experience and Korean smart city models.
  • Green innovations: The Green Innovation sessions focused on the circular economy and disruptive technologies for agriculture. Korea's solid waste management system and advanced agriculture technologies were highlighted.
  • Education and skills for the future workplace: The sessions focused on Korea's vocational training to prepare workers for the digital economy, and Korea’s labor market and employment services using advanced technologies.
  • Promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship: The sessions presented Korea’s research and development and innovation promotion policies and showcased Korea’s technology appraisal services and credit guarantees for technology-based SMEs.

The Global Knowledge Exchange and Development Center presented the history of Korea’s economic development, “From Despair to Prosperity”.

Step toward reaffirming partnership

The event was an unprecedented event that brought together WBG and Korean partners to promote innovation for development and helped lay the groundwork for strengthening cooperation between the two partners.

“Korea Innovation Week is a testament to both the importance of disruptive technologies for development and the partnership between Korea and the World Bank Group,” said Mr. Kunil Hwang, the Korea Executive Director.

Four memorandums of understanding and statements of interest on smart city, forest restoration, agricultural productivity improvement, ICT were signed between Korea partner institutions and World Bank.

“Korea is also an important source of knowledge and innovation. We are working together on cutting-edge development topics such as green growth, financial innovation, private sector development, and technology and innovation. The WBG Korea office serves as an anchor for our collaboration,” said Ms. Kwakwa.