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South Korea on Top Again

The latest economic and public-health indicators show that South Korea is far ahead of most others in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and staging a robust economic recovery. The country's success is no accident, and it is time for others to start following its example.

LONDON – On August 11, the OECD signaled that it would be revising its 2020 real (inflation-adjusted) GDP forecast for South Korea from -1.2% to -0.8%, adding to the confidence that the country is faring better economically than any other OECD member. On average, the group’s 37 member states are projected to experience a real GDP contraction of 7.6%. Worse, this news came just a day before the United Kingdom’s government reported a record-breaking second-quarter contraction of 20.4%, following previous forecasts that the UK economy was on track to shrink by 11.5% overall this year.

Forecasts are only forecasts, and the OECD’s track record is no better (or worse) than other official sources of such data. Based on my own reading of recent high-frequency indicators, I suspect that global output figures in 2020 will turn out to be less grim than many expect.

Still, for the purposes of making cross-country comparisons, the OECD’s outlook is reliable. For example, the data clearly show that South Korea stands out from the crowd. The country has long been a role model for other developing economies, and it is now increasingly becoming one for more “advanced” economies like the United States and the UK.