Low Public Spending and Pollution Mar Korea's OECD Ranking

      November 19, 2009 13:24

      Korea is lagging behind advanced countries in terms of social cohesion and environmental protection, recent research finds. According to an index on economic and social development, compiled by the National Research Council for Economics, Humanities and Social Sciences, Korea ranked 26th out of the 30 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of "social integration" and 22nd in "environmental conservation."  The results are based on economic, social and environmental indices that measure the quality of life in Korea. The higher the index score, the more advanced a country is. Korea came in 21st place out of the 30 OECD countries.
      The index serves as a gauge to determine where Korea ranks among other OECD countries. While Korea's "economic growth" engine ranks near the top, its other scores lead to a low overall ranking.
      Korea has been sitting at the bottom of the barrel for the past 18 years in the category of "social integration," sliding from 24th place in 1990 to 26th in 2007. Being slightly above countries such as Mexico and Poland but remaining near the bottom, Korea's low ranking is due to the government's lack of spending on programs that serve to resolve social conflicts and strengthen social cohesion.
      In the "environmental" category, Korea fell from 14th place in 1990 to 22nd in 2007. A surge in pollutant emissions was evaluated as the main reason behind Korea's drop in rank. Korea's carbon dioxide emissions surged 107.6 percent between 1990 and 2006, compared to a 17.1 percent rise in the U.S., 13.2 percent in Japan and a 16.2 percent average among OECD countries.
      Korea's rankings are low, considering that its per-capita national income rose from US$6,147 to $21,695 between 1990 and 2007. Based on the GDP level when it was around US$19,000, public spending accounted for just 5.6 percent, which was far lower than the U.S. (13 percent), Japan (11.4 percent), Germany (23.5 percent) and France (28.1 percent).
      As of 2007, Korea's public spending stood at 29th among OECD countries, accounting for 7.85 of GDP. "OECD countries excluding Korea showed improvements in social integration as per-capita income levels rose," said Hankuk University of Foreign Studies professor Park Myung-ho, who released the research results. "Only Korea showed growth and social integration going in opposite directions," he pointed out.

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