The Economic Growth of Late-comer Korea: The Role of Government
S. Choi(Seoul National University)
In early 20th century the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule, and the Korean Peninsula, upon liberation in 1945, was divided into the two Koreas, in spite of their economic complementary relations. Furthermore South Korea(hereinafter Korea) fell into utter turmoil because of conflict between ideologies, eventually in 1950 it led to Korean War which lasted for three years. After Korean War, GNP per capita of Korea was 67 dollars(current prices) in 1953, 79 dollars in 1960, the annual growth rate in 1950s was 4 percent(National Statistical Office 1996, p.116). But great transformation was undergone in early 1960s. Most importantly, the growth rate was more than double 1950s’s rate, and this pace was going on keeping for almost 30 years. As a result, many changes in political, economic and social areas were made since 1960s. This paper, therefore, focuses on 1960s’ and 1970s’ period when the high growth started and lasted in Korea.
How could the high performance be possible? We can review this issue from the two viewpoints. One is to review it from the perspective of business growth, the other from the perspective of government’s role. But I will examine the economic growth of late-comer Korea from the latter’s viewpoint.
Many researchers began to pay attention to the role of government since A. Gerschenkron(1966) proposed that the role of government, unlike advanced countries, was a very important factor in the economic growth of late-comer countries. The role of government, of course, was assessed as either neo-classical view which argued that it was the intervention to get the prices right, or developmental state view which argued for the intervention to get the prices wrong. The former studied mainly the effect of market-friendly policies on the export promotion, and the latter focused on risk-sharing system to increase investment. The incentive system to change the behavior of economic players, of course, matters greatly to economic growth. Therefore, many researchers have ever studied the characteristics of incentive system that were made by policies and institutions.
This paper focused on government organization to formulate and implement policies and institutions, also tried to study the causes to have an effect on the policy execution than the incentive system. This paper will study three topics as follows. 1) What are the characteristics of the Korean development strategy to be formed in the early 1960s? 2) It is to study the role of Economic Planning Board to execute this development strategy effectively. 3) It is to study the institution to help coordinate the incentive system with the changes in economic situation.
II. Formation of the Korean Development Strategy
There has been an argument that Korean economy achieved quick growth due to the introduction of export-oriented industrialization policy. Of course, it's not completely wrong, but it doesn't provide an accurate explanation about the process of its quick growth, either. If it's true that a shift from import substitution industrialization policy to export-oriented industrialization policy is the only factor for quick growth, the problems with the economic growth of developing countries will be considered much easier. This chapter will review the formation process and characteristics of the development strategy introduced in the early 1960s.
1. Military Government's Development Strategy
The military government was strongly driven by growth target. The government set the goal of attaining 7.1 percent of annual growth rate for the First Five-Year Plan(hereafter the First Plan). When the military government, therefore, set the goal of 7.1 percent, with minus growth for 1961 anticipated, it was to show its strong willingness to development(SCNR 1961; EPB, 1962, p. 19).
In order to achieve the target, industrialization policy employed by the military government can be divided into two parts; one was for light industry that made certain growth through import substitution industrialization in the 1950s, and the other for heavy chemical industry that mostly depended on imports because the production facilities were not enough to meet the domestic demands. In light industry, the most important task was to secure a market to sell goods. The early military government tried to solve the problem of limited market by expanding the domestic market and accordingly put great emphasis on agricultural development. That is, it planned the growth of light industry in the cycle of "growth of agricultural productivity->increase of farmers' income->expansion of the domestic market->growth of light industry"(EPB 1962, p. 15).
However, it was the growth policy of heavy chemical industry that the military government valued most. The military government based the growth of light industry on "the principles of free companies to respect the freedom and creativity of private companies" and "directly intervened in heavy chemical industry or indirectly induced it"(EPB 1962, p. 16). The heavy chemical industries which the government promoted through active interventions, were synthetic fiber, oil refinery, fertilizer, cement, integrated iron and steel, and machinery. All of those sectors had characteristics of import substitution industry which domestic demands were met through imports because domestic production was not enough for them.
Source: EPB, the First Five-Year Development Plan, 1962, pp. 81-82.
The early military government emphasized import substitution industrialization more than export-oriented industrialization, as it is confirmed in its export plans. As you can see in
Source: EPB, the First Five-Year Development Plan, 1962, pp. 56-59.
Note: 1)calculation at 1961 constant price.
And secondly, the importance of exports was clearly recognized for two reasons. First, there was a need to search for ways to directly raise foreign currency required for the import substitution industrialization of heavy chemical industry. The other reason was that they started to advance into foreign markets actively once the domestic market of light industry goods was not expanded according to the plan and thus the industry gradually faced growth limitations.
Reflecting those circumstances, the government revised the First Plan in the latter half of 1962 and announced the supplementary plan in January, 1964. The Korean development strategy was not single-lined from import substitution industrialization to export-oriented industrialization as it's commonly understood. It was, in fact, a double-lined development strategy composed of a shift from the early focus on import substitution industrialization to export of light industry and simultaneously the import substitution industrialization of heavy chemical industry. Of course, it should be noted that export-oriented industrialization and import substitution industrialization were not separately pursued. Import substitution industry grown through the industrial policies was soon converted into export industry. The organic combination of the industrial policies and export-oriented industrialization made the long-term high growth possible.
III. Policy Coordinating Agency: Economic Planning Board
It's a well-known fact that a wide range of factors are needed for economic growth. One factor the researchers all agree on is a planning agency to formulate and administer development plans. After the World War Ⅱ was ended, many developing countries set up development plans and founded planning agencies for the reason. However, only a few of them including South Korea achieved economic growth. In this chapter, I will discuss what kind of organization Korea's Economic Planning Board(EPB) was and what activities it engaged in to achieve great economic performance.
1. The Administration-Dominant Policy Decision System and the Status of EPB
The diverse policy decision systems can be simply categorized into two types; one is the legislature-dominant policy decision system. The U. S. A. that Johnson(1984, pp. 21-25) called a "regulatory state" is a good example. The other is the administration-dominant policy decision system. In such a system, the legislature is relatively weak. Thus the administration creates laws and institutions and submits them to the congress, and the legislature reviews them. Japan that Johnson called a "developmental state" is a good example, and so is Korea's Park Jung-hee administration.1
There are differences in the operation mechanism of the administration-dominant policy decision system according to political systems. Under the presidency system like South Korea, the most important thing was the president's interest and willingness to development. As pointed out in Chapter 2, the Park administration in the initial stage showed a very strong willingness to development, and President Park maintained "growth firstism" throughout his terms. What comes next is how effectively and efficiently the bureaucratic organization operates to implement and practice the president's interest and willingness. In those aspects, the foundation of EPB has considerably important meanings.
The foremost characteristics of EPB are the facts that it was newly founded as a planning agency and that it's endowed with institutional autonomy not related to economic interests unlike other executive bodies closely related to the private sector. Thus EPB was able to recognize and analyze economic situations in a less prejudiced and more objective manner and further suggest desirable directions for Korean economy for national interests. Furthermore, the minister of EPB doubled as the deputy Prime Minister, who's one grade higher than the heads of other ministries. Based on those institutional grounds, EPB formulates development strategies reflecting the president's willingness to development under the administration-dominant policy decision system and played a pivotal role as a policy coordinating agency to manage the policy executions of other government bodies.
2. Organization and Functions of EPB
EPB was set up in July, 1961 right after the establishment of the military government. There was a planning agency before EPB, but EPB's organization was unique in comparison. EPB was different from Ministry of Reconstruction(MOR) in three ways.2
First, planning function of EPB was greatly reinforced. The formulation of economic plan was divided into three stages. The policy coordinating functions of EPB were considerably reinforced, because EPB with institutional autonomy took the lead in a planning process. Of course, if political leader isn’t enough for willingness to development and the government doesn't provide continuous support for the plans, the goal of plan, even well-formulated plan, cannot be achieved.3 Also, if the policies are not coordinated smoothly among the ministries, even though that condition are satisfied, the economic plan was not implemented well and thus its performance too cannot help being poor.
Secondly, the allocating function of domestic and foreign currency was granted to EPB in order to guarantee its policy coordinating function institutionally. The private firms were able to introduce foreign currency needed for investment projects by the approval of the Economic Cooperation Bureau in EPB. When EPB was set up, domestic currency, namely the function of compiling the budget was transferred from the Finance Ministry to EPB. Although there was much controversy in the process, the transference happened following the opinion that it should be integrated into EPB in order to reinforce its planning and policy coordinating functions. By allowing EPB to administer domestic and foreign currency, its status was institutionally secured, as well.
Finally, the Bureau of Statistics was also integrated into EPB, which should analyze the current economic situations, identify problems, and suggest development directions and strategies in order to set up economic plan. Feasibility of economic plan get higher only when there is an accurate understanding of the current economic state. Thus the bureau was moved from Ministry of Home Affairs to EPB.
In short, EPB made two contributions to the economic growth of Korea; first, EPB which was not introduced within existing executive body but newly founded, and had institutional autonomy, was able to analyze economic situations objectively and suggest directions for Korean economy; and secondly, it considerably improved the performance of the economic plan by enhancing its policy coordinating function. Even the greatest plan will be nothing but a list of hopes if it is not implemented. EPB introduced two devices to do so; first, it invited the staffs of executive bodies into its planning process to coordinate short- and long-term policies. And further it handled domestic and foreign currency and thus increased its coordination. As a matter of fact, Korea's EPB is considered as a government organization with such powerful functions and authority unprecedented in the world history(Waterston 1968, p. 437).
IV. Policy Promotion Agency: The Enlarged Meeting for Export Promotion
One of the main factors of Korea's long-term high growth was export-oriented industrialization and its persistent promotion. The exports exceeded the goals set by the economic plan, and the annual growth rates of exports were impressive with 47% for the First Plan, 36% for the Second Plan, 47% for the Third Plan, and 20% for the Fourth Plan. In this chapter, I will discuss the reasons behind Korea's speedy growth in exports around the Enlarged Meeting for Export Promotion(hereinafter EMEP).
If it's true that the EMEP had effects on exports, how could it be possible? To answer the question, we needs to accurately understand the nature of the meeting and analyze its participants.
Before the meeting, there was a consultant agency of export policies called Export Promotion Committee set up in December, 1962. The committee was composed of total 12 members including the Prime Minister, the head of the committee, eight government officials, two representations of government agencies, and two representations of private economic organizations. The structure remained the same in August, 1964. Only the number of members increased to 16.
Source: The Chosun Ilbo & The JoongAng Daily, 1965-1979.
It was the first EMEP in February, 1965 that the organization and number of participants went through a huge change. There were two huge changes; first, the president himself started to attend those meetings. It's said that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry suggested the idea to the president based on the assumption that export policies would be decided and coordinated with such speed if the president presided instead of the Prime Minister.
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