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Building a Normative Order in the South China Sea

Evolving Disputes, Expanding Options

Edited by Truong T. Tran, John B. Welfield and Thuy T. Le

The South China Sea, where a number of great powers and regional players contend for influence, has emerged as one of the most potentially explosive regions in the world today. What can be done to reduce the possibility of conflict, solve the outstanding territorial problems, and harness the potential of the sea to promote regional development, environmental sustainability and security? This book, with contributions from leading authorities in China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, Singapore and the United States, seeks to illuminate these questions.
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John B. Welfield and Le Thuy Trang

Interstate conflict, in the view of one-third of the global decision-makers and experts assembled to compile the World Economic Forum 2015 Global Risks Report, was the most probable serious danger facing the East Asia-Pacific region over the coming decade.1 A Pew Research Center global opinion poll conducted in the spring of 2014 found that people in eight of the 11 Asian countries surveyed expressed fears about possible military conflict over territorial disputes involving the People’s Republic of China and its neighbors. In China itself, more than six in every ten citizens expressed similar concerns. Two-thirds of Americans in 2014 also feared that intensifying territorial disputes between China and its neighbors could spark an armed conflict.2 Although the World Economic Forum 2017 Global Risks Report considered such conflict as a decreasing risk in terms of likelihood and impact,3 majorities in China, Japan and several other East Asian nations remained concerned about territorial tensions and the strategic drama being played out between the United States and China on land and at sea across the region had begun to fuel fears that the “Pacific century” might be shattered by a new Pacific war.4 For better or for worse, Southeast Asia, the region which has given birth to the most vigorous efforts to construct a regional security architecture designed to ensure long-term peace and stability in Asia and the wider Pacific Basin, is today confronted by a series of intractable problems that may well constitute the greatest tests it has faced since the end of the Cold War. Much has been said about the significance of the South China Sea for the security and development of the Indo-Pacific. This sea offers the shortest route from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. About half of the world’s commerce, half of global liquefied natural gas and a third of global crude oil transit through this body of water each year.5 Two-fifths of the world’s tuna are born in the South China Sea, contributing to a multibillion-dollar fisheries industry.6 These statistics, oft-cited, are just a few indicators of the South China Sea’s importance to the region and the world at large. A durable regional security system that can deliver lasting stability and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific cannot be constructed in the absence of a smoothly functioning regional maritime order in this critical area. Yet this body of water, blessed with so many valuable resources and crisscrossed by a network of vital sea-lanes, has become the home to some of the most intractable territorial disputes in Asia and a stage for intensifying great power strategic competition. The longstanding territorial and maritime disputes simmering in the South China Sea and the machinations of great powers have been slowing down the momentum for regional cooperation and frustrating attempts to forge a robust and mutually beneficial security architecture. There is also another troubling dimension of very great significance. While the tempo of regional cooperation has slackened, the rate at which the South China Sea marine environment is deteriorating has accelerated. Forty percent of the South China Sea’s fish stocks have already been exhausted and, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, most fish resources in the western part of the South China Sea have been exploited or overexploited.7 Meanwhile, 70 percent of the South China Sea’s coral reefs are reported to be in poor or only fair condition.8 Put simply, while the challenges to the South China Sea marine environment are growing, the capacity of regional mechanisms to effectively address those challenges has been undermined or severely constrained.

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Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

Over the last half century, Korea successfully escaped from poverty and socio-economic instability to achieve remarkable economic growth and democracy. An average Korean lived on 2.3 dollars per day in the 1950s; she now earns about 60 dollars per day. Since 1960, the Korean economy has maintained a 6 percent annual growth rate of real GDP per capita, becoming the 13th largest economy in the world (Maddison Project, 2013). This achievement is regarded as a historic case of sustainable growth. While several factors contributed to this outstanding growth, there is emerging consensus that Korea’s achievement of both sustained economic development and democracy is mainly due to its investment in people. At its initial stage of development, Korea faced problems similar to most other developing countries. To escape from a vicious cycle of poverty, Korea had to overcome a legacy of antiquated traditions in education and training. Koreans had traditionally neglected vocational and technical training, owing partly to Confucianism, which praises scholars of the humanities and farmers while disregards professions in manufacturing and trade. Because parents encouraged their children to pursue academic education in colleges and hold white-collar jobs, industries lagged behind with few technicians, skilled workers, and blue-collar workers. To make matters worse, Japanese colonial rule prohibited Koreans from accumulating both physical and human capital for entrepreneurship in industrial sectors. The three years of the Korean War with the division of the Korean peninsula also devastated the economic and social infrastructure and fundamentals for economic growth.

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Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

It is well-known that Korean students’ performance belongs to the top group in international competence tests such as OECD’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which have been testing fifteen-yearold students from the OECD member countries in reading, mathematics and science every three years since 2000. Recently, the OECD implemented a similar test for adults during the period from 2011 to 2012, called PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies), where the competence or skill levels of 16_65-year-old adults are measured in the three areas of literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technologyrich environment skills. Surprisingly, the performance of Korea’s adult population in the PIAAC test was quite disappointing. In contrast to the stellar performance of the Korean youth in PISA, Korean adults’ skill levels turned out to be slightly lower than the OECD averages. Furthermore, the gap between Korean skill level and the OECD average widens as the population gets older. We are motivated by this puzzling fact and attempt to explore the features of Korean adult skill levels from the PIAAC data. In particular, we focus on establishing empirical patterns of age–skill profile after controlling for a rich set of confounding factors rather than establishing the causal relationship. However, we will provide a benchmark study so as to infer that weak life-long learning is the key fundamental problem for the Korean education system and labor market. It would be difficult to establish a solid causal inference about the relationship between skill levels and age simply from observing that the skill level decreases in age from PIAAC. Such observation may indicate that the skill level deteriorates as people get older, which can be interpreted as a ‘depreciation’ of human capital stock with age for some reasons. However, this may also indicate that younger generations are more skilled than older generations. That is, it might indicate that there has been improvement in skill across cohorts during Korea’s development process. To distinguish between the two possible interpretations, we need to use panel data. PIAAC, however, provides a cross-sectional data at the moment so that the empirical pattern about the cross-sectional age–skill profile from PIAAC does not clearly tell us about the precise interpretation.

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Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

Goldin and Katz (2008) called the twentieth century the era of American human capital and argued that the U.S. economic dominance in the twentieth century was possible because the U.S. surpassed Europe in terms of education. Similarly, the second half of the twentieth century was an era of Korea’s triumph in terms of human capital accumulation, which was recognized by the Nobel Laureate economist Robert Lucas (1993) and also by the former U.S. President Barack Obama. Korea’s successful educational development has been praised not only by such global leading figures but also by various international communities and developing countries. During this period, Korea transformed itself from a poor and aid-dependent nation to a donor country providing development assistance to others. This was possible in large part by the human capital accumulation through the rapid expansion of education (Kim, K-H., 2013). For the last half century, Korea showed the fastest educational expansion in the world and reached the world’s top level in terms of average years of schooling, performance in international academic achievement tests, and number of researchers per population. Yet Korea still faces quality problems in higher education that is not apparent in quantitative indicators. For example, Korean research universities have yet to reach the world’s top level in terms of research impacts; colleges are vertically differentiated based on admission test scores, and the horizontal differentiation through specialization and industry–academia cooperation are still weak. Korean primary and secondary schools place strong emphasis on cognitive skills that are measurable through test scores, and their test score performance of those skills are in fact superb. However, the emphasis on measurable cognitive skills in Korean schools seems excessive, lacking sophisticated evaluation criteria and supporting conditions for developing students’ creative thinking, character skills, and effective on-the-job social skills.

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Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

In March 2016, it was a shock to Koreans when Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence AlphaGo scored four wins and only one loss against Korean Go Master Lee Sedol, who is considered one of the best Go players in the world. For most Koreans, the predictions made by the Fourth Industrial Revolution Report (Schwab, 2016) presented at the Davos Forum in January 2016 seemed unreal at the time. It predicted that as digital technologies are exponentially integrated into areas of physics and biology, the way of living could change fundamentally through the emergence of new technologies such as cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IOT), and 3D printing. However, through the game of Go between a man and a machine, Koreans could see vividly that the Fourth Industrial Revolution was just around the corner. Furthermore, several forecasts on the labor market changes from the Fourth Industrial Revolution1 predicted that half of the current jobs could be gone by the time elementary school children become job seekers. Such warning was enough to spark a sense of crisis to parents and students in Korea that they are being educated for jobs that would eventually disappear. As a result, discussions on the necessary skills and the ways of teaching and learning these skills in anticipation of rapid technological changes were transformed into a more tangible and concrete question about how best to change the learning system in response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Human Capital and Development

Lessons and Insights from Korea's Transformation

Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

During recent decades, Korea has been one of only a handful of countries that have made the successful transformation to become a developed nation by simultaneously achieving persistent economic growth combined with a democratic political system. Experts and political leaders worldwide have attributed this achievement to investments in people or, in other words, the power of education. Whilst numerous books have highlighted the role of industrial policies, technological growth, and international trade in Korea’s development process, this is one of the first to focus on the role of human capital. It shows how the accumulation of human capital aided transformation and helps explain the policies, strategies and challenges that Korea faces now and in the future.
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Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

Amid globalization and knowledge-based economies, many countries have given higher priority to education reforms. However, when it comes to specific goals, policy agendas, and strategies regarding education reform, consensus among countries has yet to be formed. For example, Korea strongly focused on lowering college advancement rates and reducing the test burdens on students. In contrast, increasing college enrollment rates and improving the test scores of students in secondary and primary schools are major goals of the U.S. and the U.K. Thus, the direction of Korea’s education reform may appear to be headed towards the opposite direction as those of the U.S. and the U.K. In Korea, as discussed in the previous chapter, the ‘education bubble’, which is defined as persistent increases in educational expenditures that do not contribute to human capital accumulation, formed since the 1990s when the surge of demand for higher education enlarged the size of private tutoring and low-quality colleges with their graduates receiving wages lower than high school graduates. Korea’s education bubble is the result of the quantity-oriented expansion of education, which was derived from the consistent demand for education amid low improvements in quality and weak horizontal differentiation among schools and colleges.

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Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

There is little argument about the critical role of human capital in the process of development. There are a variety of dimensions in the sources of human capital formation in real life, from formal education at schools to on-the-job training at work places and R & D at research universities. We observe, however, that in fostering human capital formation, both academia and the international community of development aid have placed asymmetric attention to formal schooling, in particular to general education, although the emphasis has recently shifted from primary education to secondary and tertiary education. It is obvious that general education at schools is the backbone of human capital formation of any country so that the past emphasis on general schooling in promoting the development process of the less developed countries should be continued. However, it is equally obvious that vocational education, more broadly technical and vocational education and training (TVET), also plays a critical role in materializing the development potential of the less developed countries by various channels such as labor market income generation, poverty alleviation, effective school-to-work transition, and lowering youth unemployment. Here we argue the importance of vocational education in facilitating the development process in particular for developing economies, which either struggle to take off or are going through structural transformation, which has been relatively less emphasized in international development literature. Furthermore, by analyzing the recent Korea’s development cooperation project (BEAR Project) on vocational education and training for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, based on Korea’s own development experience, we attempt to draw important lessons about what the essential components of development aid would be in order to promote vocational education in terms of effective human capital formation, aligned with national development plans.