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Birth of KDI

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Birth of KDI06



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Title Birth of KDI
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Material Type Report
Date 2015
Language Korean
File Type Theme
Subject Industry and Technology < Science/Technology
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Abstract

Sub-Theme 1 | Birth of KDI





1. Private vs. Government



The actual planning of the establishment of the KDI started since 1967. At that time, what the main leaders of the establishment planned to make was a private research institute. Therefore, at first, they executed the plan to make a private institute just like other cases of developing countries with the funding from the Ford Foundation or the Rockefeller Foundation of the US. However, this plan failed because the mentioned foundations were not interested in this plan. Instead, when Korea received the United States Operations Mission (USOM), the Korean government added some of the government fund, made a total fund of 1.31 billion won to establish the KDI.



The above mentioned process shows a very interesting aspect of the creation and the history afterwards of the KDI. Why did the people who propelled the establishment of the KDI plan to make a private think tank at first, rather than a government-sponsored think tank? Normally, the answer for this question would be, because the government did not have enough resource. This can be said as an important reason indeed, however, it has many limitations to be a core reason. An economics research institution does not need much fund since it is different from any other science technology research institutes which requires research facilities. ##3D_LAYER##Thus, as long as the government had the will to establish a research institute, it would have been possible to make one with ease.##3D_TEXT:Such inference is also backed up by the lawmaking process for the research institute’s establishment. At that time, the establishment of the KDI was based on the Korea Development Institute Act, and there seems to have been no drastic opposition or dispute. Also, it seems that fund was not a problem for the government during that period, because there were few more organizations founded by the government before and after that time, such as the Agency for Defense Development (ADD, in 1970) and the Korea Institute for Family Planning (current Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs: KIHASA, in 1971).##3D_LAYER_END##



The core reason for the founding leaders to have a private think tank in mind seems to have been to secure the independence of the research. The quality and direction of research can differ greatly by who provides the fund. The founding leaders thought, if the government supplies the fund, the think tanks may not be able to grow as an independent institute working for the country, not merely working for a specific regime. The main idea of the establishment plan of a private research institute was to have an independent think tank, not only independent from other interest groups but also independent even from the government. Indeed, trying to seek for independence by depending on a foreign fund can draw much criticism in the perspective of today. However, when considering the political and economic situations of that time, we can say that the purpose of the founding leaders were pretty clear.



Looking at this aspect, the purpose of the KDI’s foundation, securing the economists needed for the establishment of economic development plans, should be presented in a more delicate manner. It seems that the founding leaders of the KDI had more in mind for its role than simply being a functional and practical institute building and solving equations needed for the government’s 5-Year Economic Development Plans. In other words, they were thinking the KDI’s role to be planning the long-term development path, providing consultation to the government on what kind of policies are needed to achieve this goal. Therefore, they were planning to create a, so to speak, a Think Tank beyond the influence of the regime and political parties.



Although the KDI has been founded by the USOM and the Korean government’s sponsoring in 1970, as well as having the main source of operation to be procured from the government fund for the past 40 years, the aim to become a research institute conducting independent research has lived on ever since. The early reports published by the KDI writes in their cover, the statement as follows; “This research institute is a non-profit corporation run by its own funds, thus the autonomy and the independence of the policy-oriented research activities are insured to the fullest.” Also, the primary members of the KDI endeavored to realize such ideal. It is true for the KDI to have participated in the actual establishment process for the 5-Year Economic Development Plan, nevertheless, this was not their core task in the 1970s. Rather, what the KDI executed in a consistently along with the research on current issues was, the research seeking for the direction for a long-term comprehensive economic development.





2. Recruitment



One of the most important reasons for the foundation of the KDI ensure the expertise necessary to establish economic development plans. To establish the economic development plans properly, economists able to analyze statistics on economics were needed. However, there were not many economists at the time employed in domestic universities nor were there sufficient workforce with a Master’s degree or Ph.D. And the existing staff, including university professors, were unable to provide special help related to such as the economic development plans. This was due to the reason that they were mostly from the German historical school of Economics, thus there were not capable of conducting research based on the positive research founded on the statistics needed for establishing the economic development plans. Due to these reasons, early economic development plans relied on human resource from aborad, thus, efforts to overcome this obstacle was the important drive for the foundation of the KDI.



President Mahn Je Kim, the first president of the KDI, visited many cities in the US in 1970, one year prior to the foundation of the KDI, to meet Korean Ph.D. degree candidates who were about to graduate, or Korean economists already employed at a university or a research institute. During this visit, he explained the to be established new think tank in Korea and persuaded them to return to Korea, join the institute, and work with him. During that time, Korea had economically much lower level of income, and politics were of an authoritarian political system. Therefore, it was very difficult to persuade skilled intelligent people to join the institute. To overcome such difficulties, he directly went over to the US and talked with them in person, which such efforts resulted in recruiting many intelligent workforce to successfully



Thanks to such efforts, president Mahn Je Kimsuccessfully recruited 12 Ph.D. degree holders in economics, and joined the KDI during 1971 and 1972, and started working for the KDI.