The Republic of Korea is an HDI country, i.e. in the same category as Japan, however in contrast to
Japan, it is apparent from Figure 16 that its materials usage profile changed radically over the per...
1970 to 2008, with DMC per capita growing by 4.0% p.a. compounding. The largest growth in total
volume terms was in construction minerals, while in percentage terms metal ores grew fastest, at
6.7% p.a. High and increasing net imports of fossil fuels are the most salient feature of the PTB.
Relative dependence on imports increased greatly between 1970 and 2008. While net imports
accounted for less than 28% of metal ores and around 45% of fossil fuels in 1970, by 2008 the
shares were 98% and 97% respectively. The Republic of Korea in 1970 had a relatively low DMC per
capita of around 4 tonnes, however its material flows already had a markedly different structure to
other countries at such a low level of DMC, with biomass accounting for less than 26%, and fossil
fuels at already 17%. This suggests that the transition to a minerals based society began well before
1970, but perhaps in an environment of general resource scarcity, where total DMC flows were
maintained unusually low. If this is the case, it has not translated into ongoing frugality, as the country
now has DMC per capita approaching double regional and World averages (Figure 16 (a)).
The Republic of Korea’s initial MI is also anomalously low for a nation beginning from such a low
DMC base. Another unusual feature is that MI, while volatile, remained roughly static until the AFC
in 1997, then improved rapidly over the following decade, decreasing at an average rate of 5.3%
p.a. compounding, with around half of this improvement coming in a sustained trend rather than
confined to the period immediately following the AFC.
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