Korea's Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961-1979

Korea's Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961-1979

Korea's Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961-1979

Korea's Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961-1979

Synopsis

Based on personal interviews with the principal policy-makers of the 1970s, this book examines how the president sought to develop South Korea into an independent, autonomous sovereign state both economically and militarily.

Excerpt

Park Chung Hee, South Korea's dictator from 1961 to his assassination in 1979, left a legacy mired in controversy. Was he a bloody dictator who kept his country enthralled in a police state, repressed all dissent, and prevented his own people from aspiring to a political system of democracy, justice, and civil liberties, or was he an ingenious mastermind of rapid, state-led industrialization inspired by nationalistic sentiment that propelled his country to the second rank of industrial nations? He was both, says Hyung-A Kim, in an excellent book that instructs the reader that Park was not a political megalomaniac devoted to the aggrandizement of his own power, but a determined nationalist who believed that only a centrally organized political system under a dictator who believed in recruiting a central core of planners and administrators could carry out forced-draft industrialization and the improvement of military defense.

Of course, state leadership in late industrialization involving either the control or guidance of the economy—what has lately been dubbed “developmentalism”—in contrast to liberal, free-market capitalism is by no means a new phenomenon. What is interesting about the South Korean case, however, is that Park's project was carried out under the thumb of its long-term protector, the US, despite American objections to his repressive politics, his rejection of free-market principles, and his periodic forays into an independent defense and armament policy. Park was determined to carry out rapid industrialization after he seized power to pull his country out of the mire of poverty, and he chose to achieve this by intensifying the concentration of power at the center. He probably was motivated in doing so by his observation of Japanese development as an officer in the Japanese Army in Manchuria in the late 1930s and early 1940s, an observation that many scholars have already made, but Hyung-A Kim has discovered that the push for powerful leadership from the top was by no means confined to military officers like Park, but to leading members of the presumably liberal intellectual community in the 1950s who had no use for the dictatorship of Syngman Rhee, the first president of the Republic of Korea because of his repressive and undemocratic methods.

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