The Korea Herald


[HERALD INTERVIEW] Serbia looks to Korea for government reform

By Shin Hyon-hee

Published : March 28, 2016 - 16:37

    • Link copied

Amid a bold public administration and economic push, Serbia is ready to boost cooperation with Korea on e-government, trade and other areas that could be a catalyst to its ongoing recovery and bid to join the European Union, the country’s deputy prime minister told The Korea Herald.

While Europe offers a broader pathway to growth, the Korean model involving government consolidation and a market-driven economy caters to Belgrade’s ongoing drive to streamline public administration and pare debt, Kori Udovicki said.

“We think there are many interesting aspects in the model of Korea and we should not only look at Europe as a model,” Udovicki said in Seoul.

“And applying the e-government model is really the way forward. ... We have a very ambitious, but much needed public administration reform agenda. There are two or three aspects of the agenda that we need to do, and these are all areas in which Korea is so strong,” she added, referring to government integration and planning.
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Kori Udovicki Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Kori Udovicki Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald
Udovicki, also the Balkan country’s minister of public administration and local self-government, was visiting Seoul early this month to seal a memorandum of understanding on e-government with the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. Her week-long stay also included participation in a conference on big data solutions for development, and a tour to the Korea Development Institute in Daejeon.

Before taking up the current post in 2014, the 55-year economist worked about eight years for the International Monetary Fund in Washington until 2001, and at the U.N. on development from 2007-12. At her homeland, she served as the minister of energy and mining and then governor of the National Bank of Serbia between 2002 and 2004.

Her focus on e-government and development is in line with Serbia’s ongoing efforts to rebuild its institutions following the Balkan crisis in the 1990s, which she said affected its “social and institutional fabric” and disrupted its transition to a fully capitalist market economy.

The country managed to recover following the end of the conflicts, chiefly powered by the worldwide boom in the early 2000s. Lacking “clear directions” for the economy, however, it soon took a fresh batch of heat from the global economic crisis in 2007-08.

“So this government has taken very decisive action on consolidating the fiscal framework, and at the same time, we want to put together different parts of the government -- we need to streamline further public administration to make it even less costly.” the deputy prime minister said.

With Belgrade aiming for EU membership and negotiations underway, the reform initiative would also contribute to meeting the accession criteria, she noted.

“No. 1 is human rights and rule of law, where public administration reform is an extremely important component. Another one is judiciary reform, we still have inefficient judiciary and this is the problem,” Udovicki said, while also mentioning minority rights, democratic acceptance and other standards.

On economic ties, the two countries are “way below potential,” she said, referring to international sanctions on Serbia in the 1990s which plagued the nation’s overall trade.

Bilateral trade volume neared $188 million last year, according to the Korea International Trade Association, with Korea exporting automobiles, displays and other goods totaling around $73 million and importing such items as car parts and feedstuff. The sum is up about 15 percent from a year before but well below the figures of other Balkan or central European nations. With nearby Slovenia, Korea’s trade reached $1.8 billion in 2014 alone.

Yet Udovicki painted an upbeat outlook for a future increase in two-way trade and other business exchanges, citing recent agreements on double taxation and air traffic, solid diplomatic relations and the past investment success of Korean companies there such as Yura Corp., a vehicle component manufacturer employing some 5,000 local workers.

“Something has to pick up, something has to breakthrough,” she added. “We’re putting a lot of efforts so that we’re at the doorstep of a more intensive economic relationship as well.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (