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[Random thoughts] Argument over OECD entry

Posted April. 03, 2001 12:55,   


The ruling camp and the opposition party remain in a dispute over Korea`s 1996 entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). At that time, the administration of former president Kim Young-Sam was in a hurry to gain admission into the OECD, reasoning that the nation had reached the rank of advanced countries. Meanwhile, the opposition party contended that it was premature to join the international organization. In the face of the opposition party`s assertion that early entry would not upgrade the nation`s international standing, the ruling party experienced difficulties in passing the OECD motion through the National Assembly. Nonetheless, Korea was admitted to the organization as the 29th member state. Ex-president Kim and the ruling party were elated, arguing that Korea had officially become an advanced country.

Following Korea`s entry into the OECD, Slovakia was admitted as the 30th member nation last year. The aggregate population of OECD member states accounts for less than 18 percent of the total world population but their gross national product (GNP) reaches 85 percent of the global total. Per capita GNP is about $20,000. Most OECD nations have liberal market economies and plural democracies. In general, they are rich countries and their peoples enjoy high standards of living. However, Korea, Turkey, Greece and Mexico lag behind other OECD nations in many sectors.

Discouragingly, Korea has a higher ranking in negative aspects, while remaining lower in positive areas. The latest report showed that Korea has the highest rate of non-regular workers among OECD members. Late last month, it was reported that Korea recorded the lowest level of re-education for adults and the highest level in the death rate from tuberculosis. Korea also has a bad record in terms of atmospheric pollution, length of the workweek, car accidents, female graduates` participation in economic fields, Internet security, enthusiasm for learning among primary and middle school students among others.

In a more positive light, Korea is approaching the advanced nations in terms of the state of its economy. On the other hand, its OECD admission could be cited as one of the causes of the financial crunch in 1997. But Korea has benefited from the realization of its shortcomings in many fields. This recalls a Korean proverb, which says that diseases can only be cured when the causes are known.

Song Young-Eon, editorial writer