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10th Anniversary Conference of K-Developedia: An Exploration of Korea’s Past and Future

  • Date 2022-11-17 11:05
  • CategoryResearch and Education
  • Hit621

K-Developedia is about discovering knowledge of both the past and the future. These were the words of Dean You Jong-Il, Dean of KDI School of Public Policy and Management (KDIS) and member of K-Developedia’s original pioneering team, in his opening remarks for the 10th Anniversary Conference of K-Developedia: Discovering Knowledge from the Past, Leveraging Knowledge for the Future. This conference was held offline at Conrad Seoul Hotel and online via Zoom on October 20, 2022. As noted on K-Developedia’s website, the original purpose of the platform was to share knowledge of the Korean development experience. However, after many years of growth, while the site is still mainly about Korean development, it has grown to contain research papers related to other countries on many other topics, such as Korean geopolitics, political polarization, and tax economics. These are presented in the form of research papers from KDIS, Korean studies case studies, Korean studies policy consultations, KDIS talks, and keynote slides from different talks.

Former Dean Nam Sang-Woo (center) talks with Kim Taejong (left), current professor of KDIS. Joining them is Professor Lee Changkeun (right), Assistant Professor at KDIS and the current Project Director of K-Developedia. 

For the proceedings of the anniversary conference, there was a discussion of K-Developedia as a platform and 13 related topics presented within 5 sessions, including a special keynote lecture by Professor James Robinson, Faculty Director of the Pearson Institute from the University of Chicago. These sessions were: Session 1: 10 Years of K-Developedia: Retrospect and Prospect; Session 2: Leveraging Korean Development Experience for International Cooperation; Session 3: Unlocking the Potential of Data: New Directions in Research and Education of the Korean Economic Development; Session 4: New Discoveries in Korean Development Studies; and Session 5: Emerging Social Science Topics in Korean Studies.

Professor Jean Hong, from the University of Michigan, presents her research while Professor James Robinson is a discussant. 

Twenty-five years ago, even though KDIS was a relatively newly established institution, the K-Developedia platform was already under development. The idea for it came to fruition under the helm of former Dean Nam Sang-Woo. He said that if KDIS did not execute the project, it would tantamount to “negating the core mission of KDI”. In his speech, he recounted a brief history of how K-Developedia was first conceptualized from international developments to the ranks of the government. After the second APEC Meeting in 1994, Korea embarked on a mission of globalization and a strategy to make it a significant player on the international stage. 

More and more, there was increasing demand from many countries that wanted to learn from the Korean development experience, so many in the government saw the opportunity to strengthen the leadership of Korea. As a total comprehensive policy institute, KDIS was seen as the only school that could initiate such an open access platform. For former Dean Nam, “KDIS was not only the driver, but it took the leadership role.” 

With a wealth of knowledge and experience that can still be shared with the world, one aspect discussed during the proceedings of the conference was how to take the platform in new directions. Dean You suggested that it could become a platform that can “go beyond the knowledge of just Korea” since the development experience in the 1960s or 1970s was no longer what current developing countries go after. Now, there is new knowledge-sharing demand based on more recent events. 

For Professor Lee Changkeun, Assistant Professor at KDIS and the current director of K-Developedia, what would develop K-Developedia further is content curation and user participation. With content curation, because text is not the only medium for discussion, there is also an opportunity to add more visuals to share information on the platform. For user participation, this is meant to deliver education based on how students or users want to receive it, so the site can host sections for customized lessons and user-created content by other students themselves. This is targeted to increase the practicality of the site and to highlight new research, such as how people all over the world are digesting knowledge about the Korean development experience.

Professor James Robinson, from the University of Chicago, discusses his research on the South Korean development experience.

While the Korean development experience may be remarkable in world history, there is unorthodox evidence about Korea’s path to becoming a developed state, according to Professor James Robinson. In his keynote lecture, the main point of the paper he is working on with a colleague was that Korea’s development in the 1960s to 1970s was not completely based on meritocracy because there were many informal relationships in the inner workings of the government and business sector. These informal relationships could be based on friendships or, the most common, being schoolmates. This worked because there was still a system of rewards and punishments in place. However, this is not entirely anti-developmental either, especially since Korea reaped the rewards of industrialization from such a system. This challenges conventional wisdom on how the usual state develops. 

In a reminder of its purpose, Dean You mentioned that K-Developedia could engage in new exploration of Korea’s past and provide new social perspectives to current knowledge. Throughout the conference, this was evident from the presentations. For Dean You, it is through platforms like K-Developedia that KDIS continues its mission to educate beyond Korea.

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