Posted : 2009-02-23 18:47
Updated : 2009-02-23 18:47

Green and Great Korea

By Tony Michell

With all the distractions of a global economic crisis and oil falling from almost $150 per barrel in July 2008 to $30 to $40 five months later, the dynamic of becoming green and great may seem less urgent. But in the future, this two to three year breathing space for the planet, and for the world economy, may be seen as the perfect gift to mankind's future and a chance for Korea to get ahead.

Prof. Anthony Michell
President Lee Myung-bak's administration has made a major policy innovation in recognizing that the green world can be a world of significant opportunity for Korea and that Korea can become green and great. This has begun the urgent task of preparing Korea for Kyoto II.

During the last decade, the standard of living of about 3.5 billion inhabitants out of the 6.5 billion on the planet has increased remarkably. No longer is wealth concentrated in the hands of the one billion Americans, Japanese and Europeans. But the capacity of the planet to support such a level of affluence under the brown economy is zero. A new era of sustainable growth is necessary which requires everyone to reconsider how they use resources.

Since the creation of the Kyoto Agreement, Korea's greenhouse emissions have doubled, while most Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries struggled to restrain their emissions from increasing. Korea is consequently now one of the top seven polluters in the world, although its contribution to total planetary greenhouse gas emissions is not large. Under Kyoto II, Korea will need to sign emission constraints. So this overcrowded country must change its ways by seizing the opportunity.

Korea has some of the best manufacturing techniques in the world. Whatever a green planet needs, Koreans can produce it. The problem is that no one knows what the next generation of green industries look like, and what products it will use. Will cars be predominantly battery-driven, hybrids or powered by oxygen or hydrogen? Is solar power, wind power or tidal and geothermal power going to be the major provider of household energy needs? Can we retrofit buildings to be sustainable, or must we redesign buildings and cities to be modest or minimal emitters. How can a building of 100 stories be energy efficient? How will aircraft design change to provide both mobility and low consumption of resources?

One of Korea's problems is that its R&D is spread very thinly, and in-depth knowledge is concentrated in a few areas. A nationalistic pride continues to make Koreans want to invent their own technology, and therefore to ignore good, existing technology.

In October 2007, KABC organized a Green Dialogue Conference sponsored by DHL, Norske Skog and Think UK, subtitled a ``New Opportunity for Partnership." It was difficult to get the attention of the Korean authorities, and especially to persuade major Korean companies to think that there was value in such a partnership. The concern of foreign companies was that when the next round of the Kyoto Agreement was signed, Korea would have to adopt draconian measures without time for adequate consultation.

For all these reasons, the need for a green dialogue between foreign companies and the Korean government and Korean business and educationalists is more urgent. Korea has the opportunity to become the green foundry of new technology ― producing whatever entrepreneurs or others conceive across the world. Or it may choose to try to pursue proprietary technologies, which may be behind those of other leading R&D countries.

Who Is Anthony Michell?

Anthony Michell is a visiting professor at KDI School of Policy and Management and president of Korea Associates Business Consultancy, one of the oldest foreign consultancies in Korea. In this capacity, he is a convener of the Korea Business Forum, a seminar for multinationals and diplomats.

He first came to Korea in 1978 and decided to work for the Economic Planning Board with the charismatic economic policy maker Kim Jae-ik.

He has worked for the International Labor Organization, the World Bank, the UNDP, as well as a number of foreign and Korean corporations over the decades.

During the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, he co-authored the ``Million Jobs'' report and helped start the consequent campaign to create new jobs. He has a Ph.D from Cambridge University.


• Green and Great Korea is a major policy innovation

• Korea is fit for producing new green products

• Choosing the right winning technology is a challenge

• Korea’s R&D is too inward-looking

• Global dialogue needed for Korea’s success
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