Since joining the OECD in 1996, Korea has made impressive progress in raising living standards. Over 1996-2016, the country closed the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita gap with the OECD average by 26 percentage points. Vibrant exports underpinned strong economic growth, with Korea becoming the eighth largest exporter in the world. The country’s focus on innovation (its R&D spending is the second highest in the OECD) combined with its highly skilled population (it is among the top performers in the OECD’s Programme of International Student Assessment) supported this success. However, the convergence of Korea’s living standards to those in the most advanced countries has stalled in recent years. Output growth has slowed from 4.4% annually over 2001-10 to 2.8% since 2011. The country faces strong competition from emerging economies, notably the People’s Republic of China in low- and medium-end markets, and with advanced economies in high-end markets. This makes it more difficult for Korea to further expand its global market share.
The report, building on a policy dialogue with a range of stakeholders in Korea, analyses how economic policy instruments under the responsibility of the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport can be adjusted to contribute to water policy objectives. It also investigates how Smart Water Management Korea, an initiative by K-water that combines information and communication technology with water technology, can be harnessed to better contribute to water management in the country. Finally, it identifies some of the limitations of prevalent water allocation regimes which need to be addressed to make the best use of available water resources.
Since 1965, the Korean Government has invested heavily in quantitative development strategies to meet water needs, and despite highly variable water availability, this has allowed for and facilitated rapid urbanisation and economic growth. However, several long-term trends are expected to affect the capacity of the current water management system to adequately respond to current and future water risks, such as rapid ageing of the population, fiscal consolidation and climate change. These call for a renewed emphasis on water use efficiency.
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