Transformation of the Water Sector (1960–2012) - Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea’s (Korea’s) successful water sector development mirrors the country’s remarkable economic progress. Over a period of 50 years agricultural, industrial, and municipal demands have been safely met, and the impact from drought and flooding has been mitigated.
While the population doubled from 25 million (1961) to 50 million (2012), water supply connection rates rose from 17 percent to 98 percent, and sewerage connection and treatment rates rose from about 2 percent to about 90 percent. The successful transformation of the water sector rests on three seminal decisions.
- First, the country made water sector development an integral part of the transformation of the economy.
- Second, the country adopted not only ambitious water sector targets but also developed and applied the laws, strengthened institutions and provided financial to translate goals into results on the ground.
- Third, the government instituted rigorous monitoring and reporting of resources and results to hold institutions accountable on progress made in the sector.
The transformation is not yet complete. There is over-capacity in water supply and wastewater systems. Operating economies of scale are lagging, and the government is now consolidating the 164 local operating authorities into 10 integrated management divisions along watershed boundaries.
Financial subsidies are present but they could be substantially reduced through reforms of pricing and subsidy policies to shift more of costs to users. The next decade will likely be devoted to meeting these challenges iv TRANSFORMATION O F THE WATER SECTOR (1960–2012) in order to provide equitable, efficient and sustainable water services for the entire economy and the population. The aim of the note is to tell the story about Korea’s reforms in the water sector and to learn the lessons that might benefit other countries in the development of their water and sanitation services