The South Korean Economy

Sunil Kim, Jonson Porteux

£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788211987
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788211994
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781788212007
224 pages   |  210 x 148mm   |  25 August 2022


South Korea is one of only two Asian members of the OECD. With the fourteenth largest economy in the world, South Korea has achieved this remarkable level of economic development since its independence from Japan in 1945. Indeed, it has achieved this transformation, exceptional for any postcolonial state, despite one of the most brutal fratricidal conflicts fought since the Second World War. Sunil Kim and Jonson Porteux chart this astonishing economic development and explain the puzzle that is the South Korean economy.

The authors examine how South Korea has developed a highly innovative economy based on advanced technologies and infrastructure in spite of a postcolonial legacy of military leaders in suits and the lack of fully developed free markets. The authors develop several new explanatory concepts, such as "credible threats", "rent-sharing", "violent entrepreneurialism" and a "military development state" to explain how Korea's economic development was in large part the outcome of political corruption, deficient political protection of property rights, human rights and civil liberties, and the violent suppression of labour movements. The longstanding family-owned and run industrial conglomerates -- the chaebol -- characteristic of the Korean economy are shown to have been behind the shift to high-tech industrialization despite strong state resistance. The challenges of globalization, the precarious and fragile relationship with North Korea, the slowdown of domestic demand, and the implications for South Korea of the snowballing protectionism of Japan, China and the United States are all examined, along with the recent populist assaults on the conglomerates and their families.

The book offers new insights and frameworks for understanding the fascinating economic history of South Korea as well as the processes of industrialization and democratization more generally.


1. Introducing the South Korean economy
2. Explaining the South Korean “miracle”
3. The transformation of state-business relations
4. Making the economy: the state-labour nexus and the Korean miracle
5. Measuring the Korean economy
6. The Korean economy: the human factor
7. Consequences of economic development
8. Conclusion

Author Information

Sunil Kim is Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies at Kyung Hee University, South Korea, and a visiting research scholar at the Department of Asian Studies, University of Texas at Austin. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jonson Porteux is Assistant Professor at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan. He publishes mainly on the economic and political causes and consequences of violence and democratization.

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