Korea Rural Economic Institute, Seoul, Korea
As a national policy research institution in the field of agriculture, the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI) has led agricultural, rural and food policy and has been committed to agricultural and rural development and the advancement of agricultural policy in Korea. KREI performs its own research projects, research projects entrusted by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the government-commissioned tasks to identify important issues and to present mid- and long-term agricultural policy directions, contributing to the government and the national economy. Through various debates and media discussion meetings, the institute also tries to deliver the voice of the agricultural field and form a national consensus. KREI will continuously carry out future-oriented research on the basis of its know-how and will strive to become the world's leading agricultural research institution, which contributes to the national economy.
Keywords: agricultural policy, police research, national policy issues, government-commissioned projects
The purpose of establishment and current status of KREI
As the rapid change in the international agricultural environment continued, the government of the Republic of Korea recognised the necessity of the comprehensive and systematic agricultural research institution for the development of the agricultural and forest economy and rural society. Accordingly, a national policy research institute, the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI) was founded in 1978, and KREI has contributed to the national economy and agricultural development for 36 years since its establishment.
During this period, the institute has cooperated with the government, providing alternatives to the agricultural policy through accurate and timely research, and has built a national consensus on the agricultural policy issues through practical, collaborative, and field research.
KREI consists of six research departments, three government-commissioned service centers, and supporting teams (Figure 1). Each research department establishes short-, mid- and long-term economic plans and policy measures in agriculture and forestry; researches agri-food policy, rural residents’ welfare enhancement and rural social issues; seeks international agricultural development cooperation; studies agricultural products supply and demand trends and mid- and long-term prospects; and conducts collaborative studies with research institutions at home and abroad.
Researching these various areas, the institute identifies new agricultural policy agendas and tries to figure out domestic and international rural and agricultural issues in a timely manner. KREI also contributes to the establishment of rational agricultural policy through the evaluation and monitoring of government policy. As the institute's role in agricultural policy-making has become important, KREI’s budget, which was just 500 million won in 1978 (2013 constant price: 2.1 billion won), had been increased up to 33 billion won in 2013, and the number of KREI’s staff also had increased from 87 to 141 people. In this way, KREI had emerged as the leading agricultural research institution of the Republic of Korea.
KREI’s main tasks and contributions to policy
KREI's main tasks include performing its own research projects (basic and occasional projects) and government-commissioned policy research, and projects entrusted by other organizations; conducting the tasks entrusted by the government; managing various forums and committees for reacting to important issues; and building a policy network. The institute’s biggest goal is to play a leading role in solving agricultural and rural problems, and to contribute to basic agricultural policy conditions.
From the next chapter, the institute’s representative tasks and role in the establishment of government’s agricultural policy will be examined concretely.
To perform the institute’s own research projects
KREI's own research projects are the projects conducted with the institute's own budget. They are divided into basic projects, conducted through the deliberation by the National Research Council for Economics, Humanities, and Social Sciences under the Office of the Prime Minister; and occasional projects, conducted by the institute's own decision to respond to the current issues of agricultural policy. Basic research projects set the agricultural policy directions, consider the internal and external changes in the agricultural and rural environment and agricultural policy direction for policy proposal, and provide clues to the solution of agricultural problems from the long-term perspectives. Prior to the Council’s deliberation, the institute has the careful consideration procedures over all projects applied by the researchers through several times of research planning and coordination meetings.
For the selected task, a research director is designated. The research director organizes the research team, and selects internal and external experts as advisors during the research process. Every research project is scored according to the study’s scope and difficulty, and goes through study design, progress reports and a final report seminar. In addition, in order to manage research’s progress and quality, its progress and plan are reported at the weekly work report meeting. If necessary, the research council is held for reflecting experts’ opinions and improving the quality of research. When the study is completed, the final evaluation of the study results is conducted through the evaluation committee, considering the awareness of the problem, research achievement, the suitability of analytical methods and logicality, utilization of research results, and the sincerity of the research process. Moreover, various efforts are made to improve the research quality including giving the incentives to the excellent works.
Recently, as the status of policy research institutions is enhanced, the research tasks, required not only by the related researchers but also by the government, relevant organizations, and farmers’ organizations, are remarkably increasing. KREI’s research results are especially related to the setting of governmental policy directions. Therefore, the institute is consistently trying to select the tasks and to manage the research quality.
KREI performs its own 48 research projects per year in average (basic tasks and occasional tasks), which more than doubled in comparison to the institute’s early years. In 2013, KREI’s own 51 projects were carried out including the creation of sustainable agricultural systems, smart agriculture, agricultural investment and loan, new growth engines in agriculture, the Korea-China FTA, and price stability.
Among the institute’s recent own research tasks, the 2011 project, Strategies in Response to Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the Agricultural Sector is evaluated as the preemptive response to the Korea-China FTA, which greatly contributed to establishing national policy. At that time, some researches related to the Korea-China FTA were accumulated, but most of the previous studies were focused on the estimation of the ripple effect on domestic agriculture according to the signing of the FTA and on the product tariff concessions strategy. There were few researches which systematically analyzed various factors affecting agricultural products trade between Korea and China, forecasted the change of the agricultural products trade structure between the two countries, and presented the implication to establish negotiation strategies in the agricultural sector of the Korea-China FTA. So the institute, through the above project, predicted that non-tariff barriers including animals and plants quarantine (SPS) in agri-food trade with China will be a key issue in the Korea-China FTA talks, and proposed the necessity of negotiation strategies considering mid- and long-term change of the agri-food trade structure between the two countries.
As a result, the institute contributed to minimizing damage from agricultural imports according to the Korea-China FTA’s implementation, and to signing the FTA with China with the low level of opening the agricultural products market. Through this, KREI lessened excessive public opposition to import opening and concerns on damage from import, and contributed to enhancing financial management efficiency and competitiveness of Korean agricultural products by establishing effective domestic compensating policy.
To perform government-commissioned research projects
These research projects are the tasks that are ordered by the agricultural policy authorities of the Republic of Korea and are conducted for the purpose of finding more practical and concrete policy plans and building rational systems. The government departments’ national policy projects are very diverse such as increasing incomes of farming families, improving the distribution system and rural welfare, and stabilizing prices and food supply. KREI publishes research reports based on such national policy, engages in establishing various measures and suggests opinions, and contributes to the establishment of rational policy.
The government-commissioned research projects play a key role among the institute’s various policy supporting works (hearings, debates, materials provision, and committee activities). The number of these research projects per year on average is 30. The number of these research projects was relatively small in the institute’s early years, but nowadays they account for more than 30% of overall conducted projects, which shows the gradual increase in the importance of responses to the current issues of short-term agricultural policy. In 2013, about 37 government-commissioned research projects were conducted including the improvement of farmers’ quality of life, eco-friendly agriculture and direct payments reorganization for dry-field farming, comprehensive mid- and long-term agri-food export promotion measures, RCEP effects on the agricultural sector and countermeasures, analysis of the impact of FTA concession improvement negotiations on agriculture, and livestock distribution structure improvement.
Among these, an example that recently contributed to the establishment of the national policy will be presented. The new government focused on the enhancement of agricultural products’ competitiveness as the part of developing agriculture and forestry into the future growth industries as the national policy task. For this, it was needed to improve the export supporting system and to prepare new policy. Through the research project, Policy Supporting System Reorganization Plan for Increasing Agri-food Exports’ Added Value, the institute suggested the necessity of preparing policy such as differential export logistics support, co-export logistics center construction, and the introduction of agri-food exports price stabilization insurance. Moreover, we provided the data on mid- and long-term prospects of agricultural products export increases, which was used as the basic material for the business reporting to the President by the Agriculture and Food Minister. After that, the institute reported about the problems of the export supporting system and its improvement plan at the “Experts’ Meeting for the Valuation of Agricultural Products Export Supporting Projects” according to the National Assembly Budget Office’s request. Through this, KREI supported the effective budget assignment of export supporting projects, and contributed to the government's establishing export policy by participating in governmental T/F for preparing mid- and long-term basic plans to increase agrifood export. In addition, the institute continuously monitored the effects of government's trade negotiation on the export in the agricultural sector, and suggested policy tasks for expanding agrifood exports, participating in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s Trade and Industry Forum as the member of the Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food Division.
To perform entrusted projects
Since the Asian foreign exchange crisis in 1997, according to one of governmental management innovation plans, the department supervising KREI was changed from the individual ministry to the Office of Prime Minister in 1999, and the Korea Council of Economic & Social Research Institutes was launched and took the role of the board. Moreover, KREI’s budget system was changed according to the government’s financial changes so that a portion of the budget should be attracted from the outside from 1999. As the role and function of the institute has expanded to the commercial research, not confined to the government’s policy research, the number of entrusted projects has rapidly increased. As a result, the projects entrusted by the outside organizations greatly increased from 35 in 1999 to 69 in 2013.
The research planning and coordination committee decides whether to perform entrusted projects after full contemplation about the necessity and possibility of conducting them. However, there are concerns about neglecting basic research’s quality control and the policy research organization’s original role as the portion of the entrusted projects increases.
To perform the government-commissioned tasks
The government-commissioned tasks are the tasks entrusted by the government by the law, and the government pays the expenses for them. KREI conducts the tasks entrusted by the government such as the agricultural outlook service, tasks as a professional support organization for the Committee for Improving the Quality of Rural Life, and tasks of operating the FTA Implementation Support Center for Farmers.
First, the agricultural outlook service (Figure 2) is for stable supply and demand of agricultural and livestock products by predicting the mid- and long-term supply and demand, and the price of main agricultural products; and is operated by KREI’s Agricultural Outlook Center, founded in 1999. In 2013, the Center forecasted 35 items including domestic vegetables, fruits, fruit vegetables, livestock, and grains, and the outlook project was expanded to international grains (wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice) for food security. Due to the increase in demand for agricultural outlook items, the agricultural outlook budget, which was only 1.5 billion won at the Center’s initial stage, increased up to 8 billion won in 2013.
Stable demand and supply of the agricultural and livestock products is essential for the stabilization of farm incomes and consumers’ purchasing price. Therefore, the Agricultural Outlook Center forecasted the unstable demand and supply of agricultural products through the analysis of various short- and long-term supply and demand models and surveys on sample farmers and suggested appropriate government policy directions of supply and demand. The pan-governmental committee for agricultural and livestock products supply and demand control discusses the Center’s supply and demand forecasting results. In particular, the Center contributes to reducing the price volatility of agricultural products by constant cooperation with the relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp.
Second, the institute is also a specialized supporting organization of the Committee for Improving the Quality of Rural Life (Figure 3). Until now, a rural exodus has been prominent, and the critical opinions that rural welfare is less sufficient than urban welfare arose, so the government needed new alternatives to improve farmers' quality of life, rural welfare, and regional development. For this reason, the government designated KREI as the specialized supporting organization of the Committee for Improving the Quality of Rural Life, based on the Special Act on Improving the Quality of Life. Through this, KREI reviewed the current issues related to rural welfare (policy formation, policy implementation processes, and policy results), and comprehensively examined the policy relevant to the quality of rural life. Moreover, KREI investigated whether a certain policy or system may have differential effects on urban and rural areas. In case that it had adverse effects on rural areas, the institute prepared the material which can prove that fact, and strived to find the policy improvement tasks.
Third, KREI operates the FTA Implementation Support Center for Farmers. Over the last decade, the Republic of Korea signed FTAs with 11 countries including the United States and the EU. This led the government to revise the Special Act on Supporting Farmers and Fishers According to Signing FTAs for the purpose of compensating damage and enhancing competitiveness in agriculture. In accordance with this, the government designated KREI as the Implementation Support Center for Farmers (hereafter “the Implementation Support Center”) and entrusted investigation and analysis of the import quantity and its effects on the price of agricultural products, and consultation related to FTAs.
The Implementation Support Center analyzed damages from import due to FTAs through various researches, and assessed the effects on domestic agriculture. Through this, KREI conducts the government-commissioned tasks by searching the methods to support compensation measures for domestic damages, checking the results of FTAs and the implementation of the relevant measures, improving systems, and planning investment and loan for farmers.
Fourth, through international rural development cooperation (ODA), the institute contributes to spreading Korea’s rapid economic and agricultural growth experience abroad. KREI has held international agricultural cooperation seminars based on Korean agricultural development experience, and has promoted regular exchange with local experts of Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia and other countries. The institute especially researched the ways to apply the Saemaeul (New Village) Movement to developing countries for their rural development strategies, and tried to share the results at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-UNDP Expert Meeting, the New Village Globalization Forum, etc. In addition, KREI established the Center for International Agricultural Partnership in 2013 for more professional international cooperation.
As a result of these efforts, the institute introduced Korean agricultural policy to 113 government officials in the agricultural sector from four developing countries through local and invitational training as the task’s agent, and helped them to establish action plans for each country’s agricultural development. Moreover, KREI shares the cooperation cases with the domestic relevant organizations, and prepares a place for discussion for continuous collaboration.
Finally, KREI conducts investigation and analysis to collect and form the public opinion regularly. In 2013, the institute carried out 15 monitoring surveys regarding management and education including the surveys on KREI staff’s demand for the institute’s own research projects and for self-improvement training. Also, KREI conducted eight field surveys such as the surveys on rural residents’ consumption and on the present state of the lack of rural labor force. Moreover, the institute commissioned the Public Opinion Survey on Agriculture and Rural Villages that was difficult for KREI to conduct by itself to the professional survey institution, and presented the national discourse on agriculture.
Since its founding, KREI has operated the system of “Local Correspondents” and “KREI Reporters” to identify rural villages’ problems, to collect and analyze farmers’ demands more systematically, and to increase the central government’s and farmers’ understanding of policy issues.
The Local Correspondents system is a system to survey farm households in rural villages by phone or mail about opinions on major agricultural policies, farmers’ awareness, the rural economy’s current situation, and so on. KREI has about 3,000 local correspondents as for 2013, and they provide their region’s opinions about agricultural policy for the institute regularly.
The KREI Reporters system aims to establish the field information network between rural communities and the institute, to create the basis for cooperation, and to strengthen research services for the people. This system that started in April 2009 is centered on opinion leaders of cities and counties. With 189 reporters as of 2014, it is used to collect the public opinion on agricultural policy regularly. Since 2009, through KREI Reporters, the institute could conduct about 140 research activities including Agricultural Policy Focus, various forums and media activities. Also, KREI led the formation of the public opinion by providing the research for about 40,000 policy makers through various media.
Policy discussion and academic exchange at home and abroad
In response to the continued growth of the national economy and rapid progress in liberalization and internationalization, the agricultural and forestry economy and rural society also changed. In this process, our institute has prepared the places for continuous discussion about current policy issues. KREI, as a hub in agricultural and rural policy research, holds about 20 times of policy discussion and hearings a year, and leads policy development responding to domestic and international circumstance changes and the national consensus formation.
We reviewed agricultural policy and its key structure and suggested alternatives, holding the public hearing for the enactment of the Rural and Agricultural Basic Act and the Forum on Agricultural Policy Tasks and Directions of the New Government that the Presidential Transition Committee ran. Since 2000, KREI has held policy forums related to new issues such as policy debates on agricultural trade and farm income stabilization, consumer demand for safe agri-food, and rural welfare and housing. The Agricultural Outlook Conference, which has been held annually since 1998, became one of the key events in the agricultural sector, where Korea's agricultural and rural officials gather, think over the future of agriculture together, and exchange their opinions.
Our institute holds around five international conferences every year, focused on agricultural and rural relevant issues for international academic exchanges, mutual understanding between the related countries, understanding of the latest international trends, and information exchange. In the 80's, the main issues were rural development and cooperation, the agricultural trade negotiations due to the UR negotiations, improvement of the agricultural structure, and agricultural trade, whereas the WTO negotiations and environment-friendly agriculture were the key issues from the 90's. Since 2000, many international conferences between Korea and Japan have been held, and the results of the conferences provided the foundation for activation of joint research between the two countries. Besides these, the international conferences on various themes, including agricultural cooperation plans between South and North Koreas, understanding of East Asian agriculture, the value of agriculture, and small farmers, were held, which increased domestic and foreign understanding of Korean agriculture and provided chances to identify the current situation in foreign countries.
In particular, the Forum for Agricultural Policy Research in North East Asia (FANEA) is the annual academic forum that was founded by KREI; Japan’s Policy Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and the Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in 2003 for Northeast Asian agricultural and rural policy research, information exchange, and academic activities promotion. This forum provides an important chance for understanding of the three countries' agriculture and researchers’ exchange. Each country holds an annual joint symposium in turn, and the Forum’s home page was also built.
In addition, KREI continuously seeks sisterhood relationships and research agreements for the purpose of research collaboration and exchange with domestic and foreign relevant organizations and major universities. In the 2000s, KREI signed research cooperation agreements (MOUs) more actively for mutual cooperation and regular exchange with the organizations. As of 2013, the institute signed MOUs with 48 domestic and foreign organizations.
Internationally, KREI signed research cooperation agreements with major universities such as the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri, Washington State University in the USA, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan; and with policy research institutes such as the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region (FFTC), Japan’s Policy Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences. In particular, since 2000 as China’s importance increased, KREI has established an active cooperation system with the Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Information Center of China’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Domestically, KREI seeks research cooperation with the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, other relevant government agencies; academic organizations such as the Korea Agricultural Economics Association and Korea Agri-food Policy Society; and national research institutes including the Korea Development Institute and Korea Environment Institute. In addition, KREI has signed MOUs with the major universities including Seoul National University, Korea University, Yeungnam University, and Chonnam National University; has conducted commissioned research on present issues; and has formed a policy network across the public and private sectors.
Various committee activities related to agricultural policy
Since its foundation, KREI managed important government committees in the leading position including the Rural Development Committee which is a presidential advisory body.
Among the important governmental committees related to agriculture, the Rural Development Committee is the representative committee in which KREI ran an office and played a leading role in the committee activities. As the Committee’s office, KREI actively participated in all processes of meetings, contents arrangement, and report materials. The government accepted most proposals of the Committee to vitalize rural villages and used them to make a new agricultural policy framework.
At the Cabinet meeting at the beginning of 2001, the President instructed to establish the government financial department-led, pan-governmental measures for agriculture and fisheries responding to the WTO new round. At the end of the year, the related bill was passed, and at the beginning of 2002, the Presidential Committee on Agriculture, Fishery and Rural Policies was created. Since then, the president of KREI has taken the position of executive director of the Committee and KREI’s researchers have worked as expert members.
After the new government was launched in 2003, the Presidential Committee on Balanced National Development was established and carried out various projects for regional distribution of administrational bodies and the activation of underdeveloped areas for balanced regional development. KREI participated in this process as the member of the Expert Committee for Regional Development.
At the conference of farmers, fishers, and livestock workers, hosted by the President last year, our institute presented the export strategy toward China related to the Korea-China FTA, and the President directed to found the export promotion council. KREI took an active part in this council as the governmental member and actively responded to current policy issues. In addition, taking part in the economic ministers' meeting and the Agricultural Policy Committee for the People as a member, KREI spreaded its research results and continuously proposed policy alternatives.
To spread research results (media/PR)
KREI’s key role is achieved through research projects. Thus, the institute has made an effort to reflect various clients' demands in finding research topics, performing research, and producing and disseminating the results. When the institute publishes research reports, it provides the press releases summarizing the key findings. By contributions to newspapers, forums and interviews, TV and radio, KREI also leads the spreading of its research results and the formation of public opinion.
In addition, KREI publishes the magazine, Agricultural Policy Focus, which presents an analysis of major policy issues and tasks and response directions in a timely manner, raising the institute’s status. Agricultural Policy Focus began to be published in 2011, and as of 2014, No. 87 was published.
At the KREI homepage, the means of PR, the year-round project proposal system is operated, and the Research Advisory Committee and the Research Planning Committee, which producers and consumer groups, government officials, journalists, and experts attend, are held to collect the feedback to the proposed projects.
Until the mid-1990s, research results were presented mainly through reports and papers. When the reports were published, KREI invited reporters to the institute and hold a briefing for publication, but by building the homepage (www.krei.re.kr) in 1997, a qualitative leap in the spreading of research results has been made. After that, the information search system, information on North Korean agriculture, and agricultural outlook data were added, and diverse and timely information has been available. As various contents and the user-friendly web design were continuously developed, about 100,000 people per month visited the KREI web site. It has been developed into one of the main economic research institutes’ sites. In addition, as smartphone use increases recently, KREI also provides SNSs so that agents related to agriculture and policy can get research information anywhere and anytime.
Assessment and Tasks
Over the past 36 years, KREI has developed responding to changes in domestic and international agricultural conditions actively. Until 2013, the institute published about 3,100 reports and source books and provided the research results which the government, academia, producers, and consumers needed. The Rural Economy (a journal that was founded in 1978) and the Journal of Rural Development (JRD) were listed as registered academic journals of the Korea Research Foundation in 2005, and have contributed to developing agricultural economics. KREI has also conducted interdisciplinary research on business administration, regional development, rural sociology, forest economics, and other related fields; and has trained talents for the related organizations and universities.
On the past research results, it can be judged that our institute has been a think tank in the field of agricultural policy according to the changes of the times, researching the directions of agricultural policy in the transitional period from the end of the 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s; strategies responding to opening domestic markets from the end of the 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s; structural improvement and competitiveness enhancement plans after the opening of domestic markets in the middle of the 1990s; and food safety, balanced regional development, and eco-friendly agriculture recently.
In addition, based on the New Village Movement and the rural development experiences, the institute actively takes part in planning, consultation, and training for rural poverty eradication and regional development in Asian countries, along with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNESCAP.
KREI has strengthened the network with the nation's leading research institutions and universities through research collaboration agreements (MOUs) to carry out more efficient researches. In particular, since 2003, the institute has operated the Forum for Agricultural Policy Research in North East Asia (FANEA) with Japan’s Policy Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and China’s Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development, and opened an office in Beijing, China in October 2007, preparing for the research on Chinese agriculture and for the agenda of the Korea-China FTA.
Through effective research and continuous efforts for management innovation, KREI has carried out its duties faithfully, identifying current issues of agricultural policy and presenting policy alternatives. Moreover, looking into the future, KREI actively responds to the new research demands and enhances innovation competence through the education and training of its staff. Consequently, it has been in the high ranks in the innovation and management assessment of government-funded research institutions.
On the other hand, excessive workload and individualistic tendencies owing to the strengthening of the evaluation and incentive system, and insufficient basic research because of concentration on projects of current issues are tasks that KREI has to address. In addition, in the decline of the rural economy due to the rapid expansion of opening, researchers' sense of responsibility is the valuable motive for research but also has to be dealt with properly to boost morale.
In consideration of the number of research projects and the proportion of entrusted research projects, due to the diversified role of the institute and active information exchange through not only publications but also the internet, the researchers' workload is growing. In particular, as the proportion of entrusted research projects becomes high, the researchers focus their efforts on the commercial researches, and the quality control of research and the original role of the policy research organization can be neglected. Moreover the bias relatively favorable to government policy and insufficient connection with the economy as a whole because of being concentrated in the internal affairs of agriculture are considered as regrettable.
The Korea Rural Economic Institute is still struggling for the development of the rural economy and racing to seek a more affordable and new alternatives. However, changes in the environment surrounding agriculture, unlike in the past, are arising at a faster rate, and it is expected that the tasks Republic of Korea's agriculture and agricultural policy should solve will be deployed quickly and in complexity. Thus, not being proud of current fulfillment, our institute will strive to find future growth engine for agriculture in Korea, perform more intense research, and suggest alternative policy for the realization of livable agriculture and rural districts.
|Submitted as a resource paper for the FFTC-COA International Workshop on Collection of Relevant Agricultural Policy Information and its Practical Use, June 23-27, 2014, Taipei, Taiwan R.O.C.|