What distinguishing factors help explain the rapid economic growth experienced by the South Korean economy over the past four decades?
As the South Korean economy has reached a more mature stage of its economic growth, what are the evolving challenges it has had to face?
What are its prospects of continued economic success in the increasingly globalised world economy?
The rapid growth and development in the newly industrialising economies (NIE’s) in recent decades has been nothing short of spectacular. Now among the world’s most dynamic industrialised economies, the NIE’s of Singapore, Taiwan Hong Kong, and South Korea which will be the focus, stand as perhaps the best examples of successful economic development. The economic development of South Korea, which has been among the most rapid in the world is typical of the ‘miracle’ that is the NIEs.
Korea has come far since the days it was ‘a nation of hungry rice farmers’, by pursuing an industrialisation-led development commitment since 1961, which has since produced annual GDP growth of 8.4% per annum, second only to China. The success of South Korea, has been identified by a number of factors including the shift away from import substitution strategies towards export orientated industrialisation, and the effective managing of the economy and authoritarian rule adopted by the government in order to accelerate the pace of capital accumulation, technical progress and structural change to produce economic growth beyond what could possibly occur in a free market economy.
NIEs, South Korea, are now recognised as ‘export machines’ boasting some of the highest trade/GDP ratios in the world. International economic relations began in 1964 with the recognition of these limitation of the domestic market and the ineffectiveness of pursuing substitution industrialisation strategies. As part of its new strategy for export expansion the South Korean government introduced new measures which included the devaluation of the won, which improved the competitiveness of its exports and introduced incentives designed to channel resources into export-orientated industries. Exporters were also supported by direct cash payments, permission to retain foreign exchange earnings for the purchase of imports, and the exemption from virtually all import controls and tariffs. The government in consultation with firms, set up export targets for industries as well as individual firms. These targets appeared to have influenced firm behaviour and supporting this claim was from between 1961 and 1973 the volume of exports increased at an annual rate of 35% and today continues to consistently rank in the top twenty trading nations.
Over the last 30 years the share of manufactures in total exports has increased from 12% to 95%. Furthermore the manufactures exported have themselves changed with more advanced products, led by electronics dominating the list of major exports and hence the importance of the Samsung and Lucky...