Korea’s Transformation over Six Decades


Thursday, October 18, 2012, 4:30pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs

David C. Cole

David Cole’s first engagement with the Far East involved working on a tractor project in North China in 1946-47 for the United Nations. He next was sent to Korea with the US Army (1951-52) where he was assigned to the United Nations Civil Assistance Command and traveled widely throughout the country analyzing industrial conditions. He returned to Korea as Senior Economist with the US Aid Mission (1964-66) and worked closely with Korean economic officials on formulation of economic policy and preparation of the Second Five Year Plan. In the 1970s he assisted Dr. Kim Mahn-Je with the establishment of the Korean Development Institute.

He received an AB degree in Far Eastern Studies at Cornell University in 1950 and a Ph.D in Economics at University of Michigan in 1959. He taught at Vanderbilt University (1958-62) and was affiliated with the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) and the Economics Department at Harvard from 1966 to 1994. He was an advisor to the Indonesian Government on economic and financial policies throughout his time with HIID and was a consultant to many Asian and African countries. He taught courses on Modernization of Korea and Financial Policy for Developing Countries at Harvard. His publications include three books on Korean development, one on Indonesia’s financial system, and one on a rural development project in Sudan. His most notable book on Korea, Korean Development: The Interplay of Politics and Economics written with Princeton Lyman, was published by the Harvard University Press in 1971. Since his retirement from Harvard in 1994, he has been engaged in various environmental and historical preservation activities in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Chaired by Carter J. Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History

I will describe and illustrate how dramatically South Korea has been transformed between 1952 and 2012. This transformation has occurred in all aspects of the society, the economy and the natural and physically-built-up environment. I suggest and try to illustrate that the country has moved from an impoverished mid-19th Century condition to an affluent mid-21st Century condition in roughly half a century. I will then talk briefly about the Conference that Dwight Perkins and I attended in Seoul and how it illustrates Korea's transition from an aid-receiving to an aid-giving country that is now providing technical assistance to some 34 less advanced countries around the world. Finally, I will point out some problems that I see currently confronting the Korean policy makers and some possible solutions to those problems.

The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.