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Cover Politics in the Developing World

24. South Korea  

Strong State, Successful Development

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter examines South Korea’s developmental state emerging from an authoritarian political base, toward its democratic openings in the 1990s. In 1945, the Korean peninsula was freed from Japanese colonial rule by the United States and the Soviet Union. It was divided into two states: communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea. Since then, South Korea has emerged as one of the success stories of economic development, with the state itself playing a major role. The chapter first considers the historical sources of South Korea’s national strength before discussing the Korean developmental state, focusing on dictatorship and national restoration. It then explores South Korea’s development policies and its transition to democracy, noting the persistence of corruption in the country despite democratic consolidation. It concludes with an assessment of the problems and challenges facing South Korea after achieving economic development over the past sixty years.