The Asia-Pacific Order After 70 Years
May 6, 2015
I have extraordinary respect for the accomplishments of the Republic of Korea. Students of development cite Korea as a great success story, rising from the rubble of war to build a globally competitive economy, earn high living standards, and establish a vibrant, free democracy.
Fifty years ago, Korea was poorer than Bolivia and Mozambique; today, as Marcus Noland of the Peterson Institute of International Economics has pointed out, Korea is wealthier than New Zealand and Spain. Koreans can be deservedly proud of what they have achieved.
When I served as President of the World Bank Group, I was pleased to participate in the G-20 Summit hosted by Korea. That was the first G-20 Summit convened by an economy outside the G-7, an example of then-President Lee’s “Global Korea”. One of Korea’s principal themes for that event was development: Korea has generously helped other rising economies with its experience, ideas, and resources. As the home of the world’s Green Climate Fund, Korea is in the vanguard of new multilateral ventures, too.
Perhaps because my career combined economics and security, I have appreciated Korea’s integration of economic diplomacy and strategy. For example, as the Cold War was ending in Europe, the United States worked with Australia and others to launch APEC in 1989. We wanted to foster a new economic network that would brace America’s security shield in the Pacific. Korea was a founding member of APEC and convened the third meeting of ministers in 1991.
Together, the United States and Korea saw the advantages—for a reforming China and APEC—of inviting the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to become APEC members. But, you may recall, Seoul did not have diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1991, so the United States served as the go-between. I suspected then—and the years since have shown—that Beijing would recognize its interest in working with the Republic of Korea, thereby creating a more secure peninsula and perhaps a safer region.