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Both academia and policy circles are becoming increasingly aware of the lessons and insights from Korea’s transformation in human capital and development area and believe that the experience should be widely shared with other countries. The international community expects Korea to provide more relevant lessons for developing countries with a more recent development experience given the ever enlarging gap in human capital between developing and advanced countries. As Korea transformed itself from an aid recipient to a donor, it has tried to invigorate knowledge sharing programs as effective means of contributing to the development of other countries. Based on this perspective, the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission) have strongly encouraged the authors to write this book.

KDI is the hub of Korea’s knowledge-sharing programs through its Center for International Development (CID). KDI has actively supported the collaboration between the three authors of this book for the past five years. Ju-Ho Lee started his career as a researcher at KDI in 1990 and served as a member of the Korea’s National Assembly (2004‒2008), the Senior Secretary to the President for Education, Science, and Culture (2008), and the Vice Minister (2009‒2010) and the Minister (2010‒2013) of Education, Science, and Technology and returned to academia in 2013 as a professor at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management. Hyeok Jeong provided his leadership and expertise in shaping the system of knowledge-sharing programs as the first Director of Research Division of CID after he came back to Korea from his twenty-year academic career in economic growth and development. Before he returned to Korea, Hyeok Jeong taught at the University of Southern California and Vanderbilt University in the United States and also at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Japan. Song Chang Hong is the current Director of Planning and Evaluation of CID at KDI. He is responsible for designing and monitoring the Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP), a unique development cooperation framework of the Korean government with developing as well as developed countries. Before joining KDI, Dr. Hong served as a policy advisor to the Minister of Education, Science, and Technology, the Assistant Secretary of Education at the Office of the President, and a legislative advisor at the National Assembly.

KDI hosted two international seminars where the authors of this book had the opportunity to present and receive valuable feedback on the working papers, which are developed into several chapters in this book. In August 2014, KDI with the East-West Center of Hawaii University organized a conference on ‘A New Direction in Human Capital Policy: Trend in Advanced Countries and Implications for Korea’ where renowned scholars such as Julian Betts, Carl Bonham, Flavio Cunha, Susan Dynarski, Timothy Halliday, Sungmin Han, Harry Holzer, Hisam Kim, Jaehoon Kim, Young-seong Kim, Denise Konan, Sumner Lacrox, David Neumark, WooRam Park, Yoonsoo Park, and Jeffrey Traczynski were invited. At the conference, a working paper version of Chapter 3 in this book was presented under the title of ‘Making Education Reform Happen’ (Lee, J-H., 2014). In October 2014, the KDI Workshop on Human Capital Policy invited distinguished scholars such as Isaac Ehrlich, Richard Freeman, Patrick Griffin, Eric Hanushek, Joseph Kaboski, Changhui Kang, Hisam Kim, Jinyoung Kim, Wonjoon Kim, Yong-seong Kim, Jungmin Lee, Sam-Ho Lee, Yoonsoo Park, Sung-Chang Ryoo, Paula Stephan, and Petra Todd where a draft version of Chapter 2 in this book entitled ‘Is Korea Number One in Human Capital Accumulation?’ (Lee, Jeong, and Hong, 2014) and the working paper titled ‘From Multiple Choices to Performance Assessment’ (Lee, Ryoo, and Lee, 2014), in which a significant part of Chapter 6 in this book was included, were presented. We are very grateful for the comments and feedback from all the participants of the two international seminars.

The Education Commission, of which Ju-Ho Lee has been a commissioner, provided a critical support for the authors of this book in working on the key chapters. In June 2016, the Education Commission and KDI cohosted an international conference on ‘More and Better Investment in Global Education’ where preeminent scholars such as Booyuel Kim, Joon-Kyung Kim, Michael Kremer, Young Lee, Ee Ling Low, Miguel Urquiola, and Glenn Withers and high-ranking officials and practitioners such as Soo Hyang Choi, Justin W. van Fleet, Kostadin Kostadinov, Teopista Birungi Mayanja, Kilaparti Ramarkrishna, Kaba Urgessa, Dankert Vedeler, and Michael Welmond were invited. The early versions of Chapter 1 (Lee and Hong, 2016), Chapter 4 (Lee, Ju-Ho, 2016), and Chapter 8 (Jeong, 2016) in this book were presented in the meaningful conference. We greatly appreciate the productive feedback from the seminar participants as well as the excellent comments by the report project team members of the Education Commission including Liesbet Steer, Nicholas Burnett, Paul Isenman, Elizabeth King, Annababette Wils, and Bridget Crumpton. Above all, we express our deepest gratitude to Gordon Brown, the Chair of the Education Commission and the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, for inspiring and encouraging us to write this book.

Four chapters in this book refer to the research reports from KDI that we co-authored or single-authored in Korean. We express our appreciation to KDI for the permission to interpolate them into the present volume. Chapter 7 was extracted from the KDI report titled ‘Innovation in National R&D System: Recommendations for Creative Economy’ which was co-edited by Kiwan Kim and Ju-Ho Lee (Kim and Lee, 2013; Lee et al., 2015). Korean versions of Chapter 2 and a significant part of Chapter 6 previously appeared in one of the KDI reports titled ‘A New Direction in Human Capital Policies for Korea’ which was co-edited by Yong-seong Kim and Ju-Ho Lee (Kim and Lee, 2014). A Korean version of Chapter 5 was previously published as a KDI report titled ‘Skills of Koreans: Empirical Analysis and Future Strategies,’ and it was co-edited by Ju-Ho Lee and Seulki Choi (Lee and Choi, 2015). KDI and the East-West Center are planning to publish a book which combines the papers from the conference in August 2014 that includes Chapter 3 in this book. We are grateful to the East-West Center as well as KDI for their permissions to reprint our articles in both books. We also thank the Education Commission for the permission to include Chapters 1, Chapter 4, and Chapter 8 that were previously submitted to the Education Commission as background papers after the conference in 2016.

Ju-Ho Lee is grateful to the KDI School of Public Policy and Management for providing financial support, and greatly benefited from the seminars in which he was invited by the World Bank and OECD for presentations and discussions. The World Bank invited him to present the early version of Chapter 2 in September 2014 and primitive versions of Chapters 1 and 4 in September 2016. OECD invited him to make a presentation on the early version of Chapter 2 in June 2014 and then another presentation on primitive version of Chapter 5 under the title of ‘Korea’s Age–Skill Profile from PIAAC: Features and Puzzles’ (Jeong and Lee, 2016). He particularly thanks Ji Eun Chung, Deon Filmer, Emmanuel Y. Jimenez, Randall Jones, Kiwan Kim, Harry Anthony Patrinos, Halsey Rogers, and Deborah Roseveare for their very insightful comments. He also expresses gratitude for the wide range of feedback he received from the participants at the special lectures and executive programs with policy makers and practitioners from Afghanistan, Bulgaria, India, Laos, Morocco, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, SICA member countries, and G20 countries. Hyeok Jeong presented the materials in Chapters 1, 2, 5, and 8 at the Summer Conference of the Korean Academy of Development Policy, the Joint Consortium Conference of Economics by the Korean Economic Association, and the Special Lectures on Understanding Korea’s Development and Future Strategy at the Seoul National University and received useful comments from the participants.

Along with all the participants of seminars, special lectures, and executive programs, we all are very grateful for many experts and colleagues who provided valuable comments such as Changyong Choi, Suk-Joon Choi, Seulki Choi, Syngjoo Choi, Man Cho, Ho-Young Oh, Dae-Il Kim, Gyu-Tae Kim, Ki Hwan Kim, Sunwoong Kim, Taejong Kim, Taewan Kim, Yong Kim, Keun Lee, Jong-Wha Lee, Siwook Lee, Soohyung Lee, Wonhyuk Lim, Youngjae Lim, Sang-Woo Nam, Sung-Joon Paik, Jin Park, Jongwon Park, Myung-Ho Park, Se-Il Park, Taejune Park, Kwanho Shin, Yeongsup Rhee, Shun Wang, Cheon-sik Woo, and Myeong-Hee Yu.

Hyeok Jeong had various opportunities to meet general students and policy makers from developing countries in classes and to interact with top-notch scholars in the fields of development economics and human capital when he taught at the University of Southern California and Vanderbilt University in the United States and also at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Japan. The conversations with these people significantly contributed to shape his ideas and perspectives on the central issues of this book. Of course, he never could have had such privileges without the teachers who first opened his eyes to the worlds of economics and development. In particular, the classes he took mostly in classrooms and yet through collaboration with Robert M. Townsend, Robert E. Lucas Jr., Gary Becker, Kevin M. Murphy, Lars P. Hansen, James J. Heckman, Nancy Stokey, Nobuhiro Kiyotaki, Maitreesh Ghatak, Pierre-André Chiappori, François Bourguignon, and Taesung Kim laid the foundation for his understanding on economics. He truly appreciates all the teachers, students, acquainted and anonymous people.

Thumbs up also goes to the brilliant research assistance provided by Hye Ri Baek, Junghee Choi, Sang Hoon Jee, Min Ji Kim, Choyi Whang, and Jee Hee Yoon. Their analysis and research support were invaluable for this book. Excellent English editing was provided by Bridgette Weitzel, Jiho Park and Nuri Han whose efforts made this book shine and polished. We are also grateful to Innkyoung Lee (KDI) and Rachel Downie (Edward Elgar) for their outstanding book editing that would help a reader find this book inspiring.

Finally, Ju-Ho Lee thanks his family members Eun Jin Park and Somin (Stephanie) Lee for their incessant support. This book would not have been possible without your love and encouragement. Hyeok Jeong’s deepest gratitude also goes to his family, his wife Seong, and his children Jakin and Christine, whose support and love are the driving force of his life. Talking with them has always been the most important source of inspiration about what human capital is and how to form its effective foundation. Song Chang Hong thanks his family members and all his colleagues for helping him fulfill his calling.