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[Herald Interview] Sharing Korean development know-how via online archive

Armed with expertise and a multiethnic culture, KDI School is ready to step up its contributions to sharing Korea’s know-how on economic development through an online database, policy advisory projects, and lectures and seminars, its chief said.

The Seoul-based school in 2012 launched an online archive called K-Developedia, providing free access to resources accrued over the last six decades on the country’s economic ascent.

As of Dec. 10, it boasts more than 28,700 theses, academic journals, research papers, statistics and audiovisual materials chiefly produced in English by the U.N., World Bank, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other organizations at home and abroad. A multitude of Korean documents are also available with an English abstract, and translation work is underway for greater accessibility.

The database is merely part of a growing list of aid programs conducted by the institute, which also includes training, research, advisory work and a production of handbooks on the Korean experience.

“The project is in line with school’s missions to help produce global experts in the public sector, nurture their capabilities and share our development experiences with the developing world,” Nam Sang-woo, dean of the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management, told The Korea Herald.

Since the school’s 1997 inception, more than 1,300 students from some 70 countries have completed or are taking a degree course. Around half of them are from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and other Asian countries, 25 percent from Africa and 10 percent from Latin America, officials noted. Its master of public policy program was the first in Korea to obtain accreditation in the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration in July.

The alumni and their international networks play a crucial role in promoting not only K-Developedia but the country itself, boosting the site’s usage and awareness about the efforts, Nam said.

The school renovated the website to provide greater access to images and multimedia data this year. It is now seeking to dig further into older materials such as from the 1950-60s and repackage them in readily available formats. 
Nam Sang-woo. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Nam Sang-woo. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

“More than half of our students are public servants from developing countries on scholarships, and our curriculum focuses on public policy and development policy. We want them to return home equipped with Korea’s know-how,” said Nam, who is also executive secretary of the OECD-Korea Policy Center.

“I started at the KDI in 1971 and became a beneficiary myself of ADB assistance to go to the U.S. and earn my master and doctoral degrees. Forty years later, we’re doing the exact same thing for other developing countries.”

With expertise in development economics, the 68-year-old scholar served as vice president of the KDI, a tenured professor at KDI School and a senior researcher at the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo. He also oversees the Knowledge Sharing Program in Vietnam, a loan project run by the Finance Ministry.

The state-run KDI, set up in 1971 also with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development, played a key role in laying the theoretic foundation for the country’s economic reform under five-year national development plans.

As part of its “giving-back” initiative, Seoul signed a memorandum of understanding in September with Naypyidaw to establish the Myanmar Development Institute modeled after the KDI in a grant aid project agreed upon two years ago by then-President Lee Myung-bak and his counterpart Thein Sein.

Korea is set to funnel some $20 million over the next four years into devising a master plan, building facilities, providing equipment and dispatching several experts to Naypyidaw. Myanmar officials will also receive related education and training at the KDI.

“Given the relatively small scale of Korea’s official development assistance program, we can’t build as many bridges or schools as other major donors do,” Nam said.

“But our unique experience does put us in a virtually sole position to offer secrets for rapid growth. There are many schools offering development economics programs, but distributing Korean know-how is something the KDI can do best given its 40-year history of policy research.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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