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South Korea's Development State

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer  
The term “Asian Tigers” refers to the highly developed free-market economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. They have become major players in world trade.

South Korea’s export-driven economic growth, involving rapid industrialization and technological achievement, was accompanied by a democratization that transformed the country from the destruction of the Korean War of 1950-1953 to a wealthy country with a global economy. Its gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.393 trillion ranks eleventh in the world.

The country’s ruling elite developed a trading state strategy, one where bureaucrats would collaborate with organized private sectors to spur national economic transformation, in a symbiosis known as managed capitalism.

South Korea needed to become economically strong, as it was a fragment of a larger whole and feared a long-term rival to its north.
South Korea (officially, the Republic of Korea) is the southern half of the Korean peninsula, confronting Communist North Korea, after the country was partitioned at the 38th parallel after the Second World War.

It had authoritarian regimes during its early years, as it faced military threats from its neighbour and was only saved from being vanquished by its alliance with the United States.

Syngman Rhee ruled South Korea until 1960. He enacted laws that curtailed political dissent, arrested leftist opponents, and was even responsible for assassinations of political rivals.

But since the country also needed to become economically viable, it invested in education, health care, and social welfare, as well as weaponry.
Confucian social organization is deeply embedded in South Korea, though many people are Buddhists or Christians. The nation is seen as a large family with people respecting their obligations to each other. This has created a strong sense of patriotism.

With high literacy rates, low economic inequality, and ethnic homogeneity, the country faced less risk that its development and distribution of wealth would only serve the interests of a few.

The relative equality of income meant that nation would not turn into an oligarchy or kleptocracy.

During the 1970s, the Park Chung-hee regime that followed Syngman Rhee offered substantial support from the state to the industrial conglomerates, known as chaebol, in order to promote expansion.

He said he wanted to make the country “rich and strong,” as part of a project of “national restoration.”

Park channeled credit and subsidies to technologically innovative firms which have become world leaders and household names, such as Hyundai and Samsung.

By the 1980s, South Korea had become economically successful and more secure militarily. The well educated and increasingly comfortable population wanted a greater voice in government.

By the early 1980s civil society groups including Catholic and Protestant church groups, student organizations, white collar workers, and trade unions, began to demand greater freedom. Economic development had reconfigured social forces and gradually constrained military rule. Martial law ended in 1981.

The presidential election in 1987, won by Roh Tae-woo of the Democratic Liberal Party, the promulgation of a democratic constitution, and the National Assembly election in 1988, all consolidated the transition to democracy.

Roh oversaw crucial political reforms, including greater freedom of the press, tolerance of political opposition, and decentralization of government.
Kim Young-sam, president from 1993 to 1998, purged politicized generals and introduced a landmark reform aimed at transparency in financial transactions.

The current president, Park Geun-hye, elected in 2012, is the leader of the Conservative Saenuri (New Frontier) Party. She has shown a greater commitment to dialogue with nuclear-armed North Korea than her immediate predecessor, Lee Myung-bak.

Her “Trustpolitik” has suggested a flexible approach that emphasizes cooperation if Pyongyang keeps its agreements with South Korea but “assured consequences” if it breaks the peace.

Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 until the end of the Second World War and anti-Japanese sentiment remains strong. However, some political forces have adopted more pragmatic approaches in order to improve bilateral relations.

A strong commitment to development and democracy is a necessary feature of strong and cohesive states. South Korea is an excellent example.

This post first appeared on I Told You So, please read the originial post: here

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South Korea's Development State


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