1st-person account of Korea’s economic miracle

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1st-person account of Korea’s economic miracle


Per capita GNP was only $89 in 1961, which made Korea the 101st richest country in the world. By the end of Park Chung Hee’s 18-year rule, per capita GNP had soared to $1,510 - making Korea the 49th richest in the world, according to World Bank statistics.

The book “From Despair to Hope” is former Park chief of staff Kim Chung-yum’s account of how Korea’s miraculous economic growth took place.

The original contents of the book were serialized in the JoongAng Economic Daily from 1989 to 1990 in Korean, before being collected and published as a book with the title “A 30-year History of Korean Economic Policies: Memoirs of Kim Chung-yum.”

The first updated version came out in 2006. From Despair to Hope (2011) is the English version of the 2006 update and is intended to help non-Korean readers understand the context of the country’s major economic policies.

The book was written on the basis that former president Park - who seized power in a military coup in 1961, laid the groundwork for Korea to join the group of the 20 richest countries in the world.


Kim Chung-yum

From Despair to Hope chronicles the economic plans implemented by Park, starting from the first and second Korean currency and stock exchange reforms; building up the Pohang Iron and Steel Company; and creating the Gyeongbu Seoul-Busan Expressway; which all laid the groundwork for Korea to grow its heavy industries.

“I dedicated myself to various issues in which President Park showed an interest, such as agricultural development, the reforestation of the mountains, the Saemaul Undong [New Village Movement], the construction of expressways and the establishment of a medical security [national healthcare] system,” Kim wrote in the preface of the book. “Rather than simply revisiting my past experiences in chronological order, I have concentrated on major policies and themes so as to discuss the background, motivation, contents, processes and results.”

Even though From Despair to Hope is mainly about Korea’s economic development, Kim refers to the book his memoir. The obvious implication of this reference is that Kim is staking his claim to some of the credit for Korea’s rise to power.

Kim started his career as a clerk at the Bank of Chosun, the former name of the Bank of Korea, in 1944. He would serve as vice minister of finance and vice minister of commerce and industry, before becoming minister of both departments. He then served as President Park’s chief of staff from 1969 to 1978.

In the book, Kim provides anecdotes, giving readers a unique insight into a down-to-earth and frugal Park Chung Hee. For instance, Park used to mix barely with rice and he preferred to wear an open-collared shirt without a tie.

“I have emphasized my recollections of development strategies from the beginning of Korea’s take-off to Korea’s arrival as one of the newly industrialized economies,” wrote Kim.

Something of note for readers is that in the book Kim refers to Korea as Daehangminguk, rather that the official name, the Republic of Korea or South Korea, except in passages where a simple reference to Daehangminguk may cause confusion with North Korea.

The publisher, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), is Korea’s oldest and best-known research institute in the fields of economic and social science.

From Despair to Hope

Author: Kim Chung-yum
Genre: Economics
Publisher: Korea Development Institute

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
KDI, 김정렴씨 회고록 영문판 출간
한국개발연구원(KDI)은 30일 김정렴 전 청와대 비서실장의 영문판 회고록 『From Despair to Hope』를 발간했다고 밝혔다. 이는 2006년 출간된 김 전 실장의 국문 회고록 『최빈국에서 선진국 문턱까지: 한국 경제정책 30년사』를 번역한 것으로 통화개혁, 수출지향 공업화 정책, 새마을운동, 산림녹화, 고속도로 건설, 중화학공업 육성 등을 담고 있다. KDI는 “한국의 주요 경제정책을 다룬 영문 회고록은 개도국 정책결정자나 학자가 한국의 개발 경험을 이해하고 벤치마킹하는 데 기여할 것으로 기대한다”고 말했다.

 협력센터는 “이 책은 저자가 한국은행 근무를 시작으로 1960~70년대 재무부와 상공부 장·차관, 청와대 비서실장을 역임하면서 수립한 주요 경제개발 정책을 회고한 기록물로 가치가 크다”고 부연했다.

 한편 협력센터는 우리나라의 경제 발전 과정에 관여했던 주요 인사들의 회고록을 영문으로 번역하는 등 한국의 경제 발전 경험을 체계적으로 정리하는 작업을 수행하고 있다.
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