Korean Institutional Reform in Comparative Perspective
In recent years, academic economists have come to appreciate the centrality of public institutions in contributing to economic performance. Yet Korea, arguably the premier success story of the last half-century, has sometimes been described as a First World economy with Third World institutions. Although Korea modestly underachieves on most of the 52 institutional indicators examined in this paper, it is not an outlier, and on most indicators it is converging on global norms from below. The patterns on specific indicators suggest that global institutions play some role as an external policy anchor. The reason is straightforward: The existence of international norms gives policymakers a goal to aim for, and the existence of international institutions (and other avenues of international diplomatic pressure) helps in overcoming the historical weakness and parochialism of Korean public institutions.
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