UNDP launches 2021/22 Human Development Report in Korea, emphasizing opportunities in times of uncertainty

October 3, 2022

Video: Korea University Media Center

View the recording of this event:  English  Korean


30 September 2022, Seoul – The COVID-19 pandemic – compounded by inequalities, climate shocks, rapid technological innovation and social mistrust – has created a perfect storm to wipe out human progress. Is there a way forward to break humanity's current paralysis? UNDP’s 2021/22 Human Development Report provides insights to tackle this question.

The latest Human Development Report, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World”, was launched at Seoul President Hotel on 29 September by UNDP Seoul Policy Centre in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Korea University, and UNDP’s Human Development Report Office following the global release of the Report on 8 September this year.



The Korea launch featured a presentation of the report by Mr. Pedro Conceição, Director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office and lead author of the report. In his presentation, Mr. Conceição discussed how inequalities and uncertainty reinforce one another to drive polarization and undermine people’s sense of control over their lives. “Open and inclusive dialogue for collective action, and implementing policies that focus on investment, insurance, and innovation” was emphasized by Mr. Conceição as a solution to tackle these challenges.

For the first time in 32 years, the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally for two years in a row. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The reversal is nearly universal as over 90 percent of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021, signaling that the crisis is still deepening for many. The Republic of Korea was no exception in this global trend, with its 2020 HDI value declining from 2019 by 0.001 to 0.922.

“We must tackle the root causes that undermine human development by taking collective responses that will make our future greener, more inclusive and more sustainable,” remarked Anne Juepner, Acting Director of UNDP Seoul Policy Centre. 

However, the latest HDI for Korea in 2021 recovered to 0.925, positioning the country at 19 out of 191 countries and territories, up three steps compared to the year before, and highlighting opportunities to sustain development in times of uncertainty.


Trends in Korea (Republic of)'s HDI 1990-2021

Trends in Korea (Republic of)'s HDI 1990-2021

Human Development Reports - Korea (Republic of)

“Through its tireless efforts, Korea’s HDI ranking went up from 34th among 130 countries in 1990 to 19th among 191 this year. Korea’s development know-how is not a secret at all. It is precisely what the Human Development Report lays out as the key elements of development: investment, insurance and innovation in policy, and additionally, flexibility, solidarity, creativity and inclusion for driving them forward,” said Mr. Chul Lee, Deputy Director-General for Development Cooperation of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Peace-development nexus, humanitarian assistance, food security, environment, technology, innovation, and health perspectives exchanged to reboot the development trajectory


The second part of the launch event featured a panel discussion on various challenges in the 21st century, and ways to shape development pathways to achieve a greener, more inclusive, and more sustainable future for all. Representatives from Save the Children Korea, World Food Programme (WFP) Korea Office, Korea Environment Institute, LG Business Research, and National Health Insurance Service provided diverse perspectives – from peace-development nexus, humanitarian assistance/food security, environment, technology/digital/innovation, and health – on the current challenges and opportunities offered by global trends and presented suggestions for moving forward on these agendas.



Sora Jang, Humanitarian Advisor of the Humanitarian & Climate Response Team at Save the Children Korea, provided an overview of the risks on the rights of current and future generations of children, and introduced efforts from international society to operationalize the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus.

Marian Yun, Director of WFP Korea Office, described the state of the ongoing global food insecurity induced by food inflation, and addressed necessary policies to handle this crisis.

Jiyoung Shin, Director of the Korea Adaptation Center for Climate Change at Korea Environment Institute, provided a scientific explanation of why climate change is deepening over time and introduced South Korea's adaptation plan based on the “Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality and Green Growth for coping with Climate Crisis.”

Cheol Lee, Head of Trend Research Department, LG Business Research, shared the positive aspects of technology through progress made in improving the quality of life and sustainability, and emphasized the importance of defining a better future by identifying and responding to risks.

Sang-Baek Chris Kang, Director-General of Global Cooperation, National Health Insurance Service, presented on Korea's endeavor to provide decent healthcare services to all citizens including the elderly, by describing the major characteristics of the national health insurance system.

The launch event brought together participants from government, academia, research institutions, NGOs, international organizations, and private sector, joining both offline and online, to collectively discuss existing policies and initiatives in this light.   


Published annually since 1990, the Human Development Report (available at https://hdr.undp.org/) is an independent publication commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme to assess trends, raise awareness about human development around the world and prompt policy dialogue to promote sustainable human development.

To learn more about the 2022 Human Development Report and UNDP’s analysis on navigating the new uncertainty complex, visit https://hdr.undp.org/human-development-report-2021-22

About UNDP: As the United Nations lead agency on international development, UNDP works in 170 countries and territories to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities, and to build resilience to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Our work is concentrated in three focus areas; sustainable development, democratic governance and peace building, and climate and disaster resilience. https://www.undp.org

About UNDP Seoul Policy Centre: UNDP Seoul Policy Centre is part of the United Nations’ global development and policy network. The Policy Centre is central to supporting effective development cooperation, South-South and Triangular Cooperation and higher quality programming and action through cutting edge development research, policy dialogue and knowledge sharing on key development issues. undp.org/seoul-policy-centre


Session Title Speaker

Human Development Report

Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World Pedro Conceição | Director of UNDP Human Development Report Office and Lead Author of Human Development Report

Peace-Development Nexus

Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus (HDP-N)

Sora Jang | Humanitarian Advisor of Humanitarian & Climate Response Team, Save the Children Korea

Humanitarian Assistance/Food Security

Era of Converging Challenges Marian Yun | Director of World Food Programme (WFP) Korea Office
Environment Climate-Resilient Development and Adapting to Climate Change Jiyoung Shin | Director of Korea Adaptation Center for Climate Change, Korea Environment Institute

Technology/Digital /Innovation

Better Technology for Better Future Cheol Lee | Head of Trend Research Department, LG Business Research
Health Emergent Health Issues in Korea Sang-Baek Chris Kang | Director-General of Global Cooperation, National Health Insurance Service