Tuesday, October 5, 2010

South Korea, the G20, and development

The Guardian has an interesting article praising South Korea for its commitment to development — borne out of its recent rise up from its own humble past — as it gets ready to host the G20 summit next months:
Korea's push to make development issues a central part of the G20 discussions, which has been agreed by other G20 participants, ... marks an important step in the evolution of the G20. The G7 (and then G8) included a substantial development component in its deliberations, at least in terms of aid. As a more inclusive group, the G20 is well placed as a high-level forum for leaders to seek consensus on a range of urgent development policy challenges. ...

Korea is the fourth country to host a G20 summit and the first outside the north Atlantic, Anglo-Saxon club. (Previous meetings were held in Washington, London, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.) Korea is also unique in having recently and quickly made the transition to developed country status. Memories of the development experience are still fresh, including among the senior Korean officials involved in preparations for the summit.

Efforts to place development policy firmly on the G20 agenda received a boost in Toronto, when the participants agreed to create a G20 development policy working group, which has since been co-chaired by Korea and South Africa. Korea has used that group to float ideas, including an eight-pillar development agenda and multi-year action plan. ...

Senior Korean officials appear to be thinking carefully about strengthening the G20's ability to follow through on whatever commitments are made. This week, Sakong Il, the chairman of the presidential committee for the G20 summit, endorsed the idea that the G20 should become a permanent institution with a fixed secretariat.
The author notes that he spent two "exciting" years in Korea in 1987 and 1988, but he believes that "if Korea succeeds in getting the new G20 to tackle development issues in a serious way, the summit could surely outrank the Olympics in terms of lasting global impact."

Actually, there is a lot of national pride wrapped up in the altruistic idea of taking what worked in Korea so recently and exporting it as some sort of "Korean development model," that may include "a commitment to unilaterally grant low-income countries true duty-free, quota-free market access... as a boost to development."

My impression is that efforts to provide workable development are genuine, and Seoul may certainly see sincere follow-up as a good way to build up good will and a little bit of soft power.

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