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South Korea's "extraordinary" journey from a devastating war and cruel poverty
to prosperity can provide a message to other poor countries that they can also
develop and prosper, the chief of the World Bank said on Monday.
The Korean-born World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is in Seoul to attend a meeting jointly held by the Seoul government on how to promote sharing knowledge on the development experience with poor countries.
"Returning to Seoul, the city where I was born, gives me the chance to reflect again on Korea's extraordinary journey. And on what this journey means, not just for the Korean people, but for the world as a whole," Kim told people participating in the gathering.
Recalling the dismal conditions facing the Korean economy in the wake of the 1950-53 Korean War, Kim praised the country's fast recovery. He cited, in particular, an improvement in the gross national income, which jumped from less than US$70 to more than $20,000 over the past six decades.
"And the country is a global leader in advanced technological
industries. The message of the Korean experience is that even countries facing
the most extreme adversity can develop and prosper," he noted.
He said that he was also "inspired" by the part of Korea's story that concerns its relationship with the World Bank tasked with reducing poverty and helping developing countries.
In 1963, Korea received its first loan from the International Development Association or IDA, the branch of the World Bank established to help poor countries but it became the 17th largest "donor" to the branch, Kim said.
Kim emphasized that the World Bank and the Seoul government are now expanding their partnership in many areas, citing the earlier announcement of a plan to open the bank's office in South Korea next year.
"The office will provide a platform for our work together and give that work an increasing national, regional and global profile," he said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan said in his speech that the government will endeavor to share its development know-how with the international community.
"The Korean government truly appreciates the World Bank's leading efforts in knowledge sharing. We are more than eager to join the World Bank's initiative in forming measures to help out developing countries," he said.
Later in the day, Kim paid a visit to President Lee Myung-bak, and discussed ending poverty around the world, including North Korea, with Lee stressing that the South is ready to help the impoverished nation if it opens up to the outside world.
"North Korea would be able to develop at a faster pace than any other nation if it opens up," Lee said during the meeting, according to presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha. "If North Korea changes, the Republic of Korea will provide it with active help by working together with the World Bank."
Kim praised South Korea as a role model for developing nations, saying many countries want to learn from South Korea, which built one of the world's largest economies from the ashes of the Korean War, according to the spokesman.