Economic Development and Poverty Reduction in Korea: Governing Multifunctional Institutions


  • Huck-ju Kwon,

    1. is Professor at the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University (e-mail: He serves as East Asian Editor of Global Social Policy (Sage). His recent publications include Transforming the Developmental Welfare State in East Asia (London: Palgrave, 2005), and International Encyclopaedia of Social Policy (co-editor, London: Routledge, 2006). Kwon has also published a number of articles in journals including Policy and Politics and the International Journal of Social Welfare.
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  • Ilcheong Yi

    1. is a Research Coordinator in the Social Policy and Social Development Programme, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). He has published several articles and a book dealing with comparative social policies, poverty and developmental states in Asia such as Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia and Mongolia. His co-authored book, The Korean State is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.
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  • This paper is based on the research commissioned by the UNRISD research programme on Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes. The authors would like to thank the anonymous referees of this journal for their comments on an earlier version. Thanks are also due to Yusuf Bangura for useful comments. The usual caveats apply.


Combining economic development and poverty reduction is a challenge for developing countries. In the search for mechanisms that integrate both goals, this article examines the Republic of Korea's development strategy, which transformed one of Asia's poorest nations into an industrialized country with low levels of poverty. The authors investigate the state–society nexus in which Korea's developmental state has operated and look at the role of governance for economic development, focusing especially on multifunctioning institutions performing for economic growth and poverty reduction. The article provides strategic suggestions for developing countries on managing effectively within institutional constraints and moving beyond a simple emphasis on good governance.