Law and Society in Korea

Law and Society in Korea

Elgar Korean Law series

Edited by Hyunah Yang

The contributors examine societal and historical conditions that are reflected in – or that were shaped by – the law, through a variety of lenses; including law and development, law and politics, colonialism and gender, past wrongdoings, public interest lawyering, and judicial reform. In dismantling the historical specificity of the way in which Korea studies are universally framed, the contributions provide novel views, theories and information about South Korean law and society.

Chapter 1: Law and development: the Korean experience

Dai-kwon Choi

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, law - academic, asian law


This chapter explores how law has been interrelated to economic development in Korea over the last 60 years. Korea is one of the few countries in the world that has successfully attained both democratization and rapid economic growth since the end of the Second World War. Korean per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was less than a hundred dollars in the 1960s, but is around 20,000 dollars today (Statistics Korea 2011, p. 187; Chung 2007, p. 13). Korea has now become the world’s thirteenth economic power in terms of gross domestic income (Chung 2007, p. 16). In only half a century, Korean society has achieved the political and economic developments that took the Western world at least a few centuries to achieve, with huge strides in economic development being taken during the authoritarian post-Korean War phase. Korean democratization then followed this economic development. The central question of this chapter is whether Korean development can be attributed to law, and, if it can, in what way. Conceptually, it is difficult to relate law to economic development. Much of the literature on law and economic development invariably associates the rule of law with development,1 following in the footsteps of the Weberian proposition: the ‘formal{rational law’ as a principal facilitating element or a prerequisite of economic development.2 The Korean experience, however, seems to repudiate such an association, because Korea underwent a jumping pace development during its authoritarian regime, which appeared to contradict the rule of law.

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