Korea under Siege, 1876-1945: Capital Formation and Economic Transformation

Korea under Siege, 1876-1945: Capital Formation and Economic Transformation

Korea under Siege, 1876-1945: Capital Formation and Economic Transformation

Korea under Siege, 1876-1945: Capital Formation and Economic Transformation

Synopsis

"The Korean economy was transformed from the opening of the hermit kingdom in 1876 to the end of Japanese rule in 1945. In Korea under Siege, Young-Iob Chung focuses on capital formation, economic growth, and structural changes. The so-called miraculous economic development in the southern half of the Korean peninsula has transformed the region from an agrarian economy to that of a major industrial power in a very short time period. South Korea is now considered one of a dozen industrialized countries in the world. However, there has been little careful analysis of the heritage of the Korean economy in the traditional and transitional periods from which it launched into a modern phenomenal economic success. The approach in this study is behavioral and analytical more than historical. Chung supports this analysis with quantitative data without being mathematical, statistical, or technical. Although narratives of Korean economic history before 1945 are scarce in English, Korea under Siege builds its analysis from data and narrative description from English-, Japanese-, and Korean-language original sources."

Excerpt

Korea is a small, peninsular country with rugged terrain, few natural resources, and dense population. Until modern times, it attracted little interest in the outside world, since it traditionally languished in the shadow of the major powers of Asia, namely, China and Japan. In many people’s minds, it was no more than an appendage to Sino-Japanese civilizations. In recent decades, however, Korea has become a household word. South Korea has gained a reputation as an underdeveloped country that has successfully undergone spectacular economic growth since the Korean War, while North Korea remains as only one of two or three surviving communist countries that are isolated from the outside world.

The so-called miraculous economic growth in the southern half of the peninsula has transformed South Korea from basically an agrarian economy to that of a major industrial power in a very short time period, and it is now considered one of the dozen or so industrialized countries in the world. During the three decades before the economic crisis of 1997, its real gross national product expanded more than 8 percent a year on average, while export earnings increased, often by more than 30 percent annually. Also, by 1988 South Korea took its place on the world stage when it hosted the summer Olympics, followed by the World Cup Soccer finals in 2001. In short, South Koreans have achieved what many people, including most Koreans, once thought impossible, and this has attracted much interest in the country’s achievements.

Witnessing such accomplishments, an increasing number of scholars and journalists have begun studying, writing, and reporting about South Korea’s phenomenal accomplishments in economic development in the last four decades. Notwithstanding such efforts, there has been little careful analysis, especially by Western scholars, of the heritage of the Korean economy in the traditional and transitional periods, from which the southern half of the country launched into . . .

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