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Speeches & TranscriptsMay 25, 2023

International Conference for the 60th Anniversary of Korea’s Five-Year Economic Development Plan

Deputy Prime Minister Choo, President Cho, your excellencies, distinguished guests.

It is my honor to speak to you today at this conference celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Korea’s first Economic Development Plan.

Let me start my comments by congratulating the government and people of Korea on this important and successful anniversary.

And let me also congratulate the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Korea Development Institute for organizing this impressive event.

The program for today’s conference is substantive.  We will hear about Korea’s development achievements; then we will hear about the process of development, particularly how Korea’s economic development plans and its international engagement strategy combined to spur development; and finally, we will hear about Korea’s future development strategy.

For the World Bank Group, Korea is a poster child of economic development.

When it joined the Bank in 1955, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 60 percent of the population living in extreme poverty.

Korea received its first assistance from IDA in 1962 for investments in national railways projects. And other projects followed: investments not just in railways, but in highways, schools and irrigation.

But, within a decade, Korea had graduated from IDA, and only five years after that, it became a financial contributor to IDA.

Today Korea is a high-income country, the tenth largest economy in the world, and an important shareholder in the World Bank Group.

This was an extraordinary path out of poverty.  The power of the Korean example is not just that Korea is now wealthy – rather, it is that the transition from poor to rich happened within the living memory of many of the country’s citizens.  Indeed, many of you in this room contributed directly to Korea’s success – your decisions made it happen.

Korea’s example shows that development and poverty reduction are not just aspirational targets – with the right institutions and policies and investments, they are within the reach of any country.

When we use Korea as an example of development for other countries, they do not just want to know where you ended up.  They also want to hear how you got here.  In fact, they can hear it from people like you who made the practical decisions that contributed to the process of development and poverty reduction.  They can hear about the policies that worked well and the ones that did not work so well.

I cannot overstate the power of Korea’s development example.  It shows that economic and social development comes about from a series of practical decisions.  I am proud that the World Bank has been a close partner of Korea’s for the six decades of its development journey.  We were working together at the time of your first five-year plan, and we are still working together today to take the lessons of Korea’s development success to other World Bank member countries around the world.

I hope that we can continue to deepen our partnership, and work together to eliminate global poverty, tackle inequality and climate change, and meet the defining development challenges of our generation.

Thank you.

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