Go to contents

Farewell to former prime minister Nam Deok-woo

Posted May. 20, 2013 07:19,   


Former Prime Minister Nam Deok-woo, who worked for and witnessed the “Miracle of the Han River” in the 1970s, passed away Saturday at the age of 89. Nam was the “Maestro of the Korean economy” who pushed forward with former President Part Chung-hee’s vision to develop the economy and bring an end to extreme poverty.

While serving as a professor at Sogang University, Nam was scouted by the former president in 1969. While serving as the finance minister and financial vice minister and minister of the Economic Planning Board for nine years and two months, Nam accomplished the “Park Chung-hee-nomics.” In the 1980s, he served as the prime minster and the head of the Korean Foreign Trade Association.

As a chief economy official, he put in place major economic reforms, including freezing private loans, reforming the stock market, introducing a value added tax system, fostering the heavy chemical industry, expanding social overhead capital, advancing into the Middle East market, and regulating real estate speculation.

He secured tax revenues by executing a value added tax system in 1977 after learning about taxes in Europe. To secure the seed money to grow the heavy chemical industry, he tried everything to attract investment from foreign countries. Thanks to his efforts to advance into the Middle East market from 1975, Korea was able to overcome the 1979 second oil shock. His leadership with wisdom and dedication in the economic sector greatly contributed to the “Miracle of the Han River” that surprised the world.

In 2005, despite his advanced age, the former economic minister established Korea Advancement Forum and gave advice to help grow the Korean economy mired in the low-growth. He regretted that he could not accomplish the task of addressing matters including prices, real estate speculation, corporate structural reform and economic education of the people in the course of fast economic growth. He was a market economist who believed that the government should shift the control of the economy to the free market once the economy begins to function.

The amazing economic growth in the 1970s and 80s was a result of collaboration among government officials specialized in economy such as Nam, first-generation entrepreneurs and political leadership equipped with decision-making capability and driving forces. Whenever political issues got in the way of economic development, former President Park used to say, “I’ll take care of politics. You concentrate on the economy.”

In the last episode of his serial essay to The Dong-A Ilbo for six months started from 2009, “My Life and My Way - On the Road to the Economic Development,” Nam said, “Frequent change of economic ministers proves that the president lacks neither a sense of purpose, nor an experience, nor an eye to see the right person.”

This year’s economic growth rate of Korea is forecast to be lower than that of Japan for the first time in 15 years. Today’s generation bears the responsibility for the revival of the economy thanks to the supports by both large and small companies, the manufacture and service businesses, and exports and domestic demand. Korea needs second and third Nam Deok-woo to revitalize its lackluster economy. May Nam rest in peace.