South Korean Development Essay

Submitted By PundaSmith1
Words: 1685
Pages: 7

Republic of Korea

I chose to write about the Republic of Korea because it is a tricky country on a thin line between “already developed” and “still developing”. Throughout my life, almost half of it, I lived in Korea observing and being part of its globalizing and westernizing civic culture and society. Because I am a 1.5-generation Korean “American,” I offer my perspective neither as an orthodox Korean nor as a Westerner. Analyzing a country according to its quantitative and qualitative representation is a difficult task; one is prone to slip into reducing the respected country into an abstract clump of data, rather than understanding it as a whole. Although I am merely a student, not a political scientist, I will try to portray the Republic of Korea in terms of its development with a series of data with a great caution. Korea is economically developed, there’s no question about it. It’s a very strong global competitor in the semi-conductor industry, steel industry, shipbuilding industry, and much more. Since the Japanese colonialization during the World War II as their “rice basket” and being a “wall of democracy,” to ward off the communist threats during the cold war, the Korean peninsula has always been a crucial geopolitical pivot (Brzezinski, 1998) and was subjected to constant external monetary and technological inputs. Indeed, the sustained support from the world superpowers with no strings attached, especially from the United States and Japan, is exactly what third world countries would die for; but there always are a series of consequences when radically different ideologies and lifestyles are forcefully and continuously imposed upon a whole nation. I will elaborate on three main problems with development indicators (energy, decline of civic culture, and neo-liberalism), which I believe is preventing Korea from being a truly developed country. First, although there was a plethora of Foreign Direct Investments in the post Korean war era, the nation became totally dependent on foreign imports due to its multifarious limitations. Energy for example, the Korean peninsula does not have a single drop of neither oil nor natural gas. In 2004, according to the World Bank, Korea imported 2.83 million bbl/day and 28.93 billion cubic meters of LNG; a country slightly larger than the state of Indiana is constantly being ranked in the top percentile of the worlds top energy import list. Directly related to the energy issue, in the year 2006, Korea has exported $331.8 billion dollars worth of goods while importing $302.6 billion; for an already “developed” state, the national trade surplus isn’t that much to take the next step to become an international economic and political power. Furthermore, due to the narrow trade gap, there is a great risk of national trade deficit and is incredibly vulnerable to economic stress/fluctuations, which became blatantly apparent during the 1998 Asian financial crisis. Directly relating to Korea’s autonomy or the lack of it thereof, it’s GDP has been steadily growing from the mid $20,000 in the post financial crisis era, revealing it’s remarkable recovery via liberation of the market and its structural adjustments. Despite the hasty economic recovery, it is imperative to consider the consequences of such a rapid change not only in the state sector but also the public sector. Since post structural adjustment era imposed by the IMF, the socio-economic power of the domestic proletariat has been reduced tremendously to bring about an empowerment of the opportunistic bourgeoisie. In the year 2005, the bottom 10% of the population consisted 2.9% of the economy whereas the top 10% of the population represented 25% of it; showing a blatant pluralization of the class as a neo-liberal inevitability. From my personal observation of my recent visit to Korea, the accountability of the informal sector is being minimalized and ignored by the state in order to meet the developed