The idea for the research project on which this book is based arose out of puzzlement at the lack of attention given, in the voluminous literature on the East Asian success story, to the part that might have been played in the process by the region’s farmers. Coming from a background in Development Economics, and many years of work on Japan’s agricultural development, to teaching courses on the ‘East Asian miracle’, it seemed to me particularly strange that the ‘East Asian model’ is almost unique amongst development models in prescribing no apparent role for agriculture. The opportunity to investigate the extent to which this neglect was justified was, however, to be provided as a result of funding under the Economic and Social Research Council’s Pacific Asia Programme, and the project which was set up on this basis was designed to bring together the material, in English and in East Asian languages, which would make possible a comparative study of agriculture’s role over time in the economies of the three now-industrial East Asian economies with significant agricultural sectors.
A substantial part of the results of our work concerns the contribution which the agricultural sectors of Japan, Korea and Taiwan made, during the ‘miracle’ development of the three economies, to the speed and character of industrialisation and to the avoidance of many of the problems of rural poverty and inequality which other developing countries have faced. At the time of writing, however, a number of Asia Pacific nations, and Korea and Japan in particular, are facing economic crises arising, in the long run, from the difficulty of adapting the institutions and policy approaches which lay behind miracle industrialisation to the new realities of the ‘globalised’, ‘post-industrial’ world. In all three countries, agriculture represents a central, and politically highly sensitive, example of the conflict and trauma which this process involves, as the region’s farmers and their representatives battle to sustain rural society in the face of the forces of ‘internationalisation’. Japan, Korea and Taiwan will not be the last of the Asia Pacific countries to struggle with the ‘agricultural adjustment problem’ to which many Western