Chapter 7: South Korea
South Korea is one of the major economies of East Asia. Having made impressive economic and social progress since the 1960s, it joined the OECD in 1996. This transformation of the South Korean economy is viewed as a test case in economic development, comparable with the ‘economic miracle’ of the Japanese development ‘take-off’ that preceded it by several decades. South Korea has an ancient history and culture. It is an ethnically homogeneous society with a population size of about 50 million and has one of the highest population densities in the world, averaging about 491 persons per square kilometre. The beginnings of South Korea’s contemporary economic and political history can be traced to the mid 1940s when, as an outcome of the Japanese defeat in World War II, it gained independence from Japan. Since then South Korea’s impressive economic performance and social progress have drawn interest among development economists and policymakers across the globe. Like many developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea underwent intermittent, major political upheaval throughout the twentieth century. Having suffered from repression by the Japanese colonial regime for much of the first half of the twentieth century, South Korea was then devastated by a three year-long war with North Korea, 1950–53, which took the lives of 1.2 million people. South Korea has sustained tense political-military relations with North Korea since partition of the Korean Peninsula post-World War II.
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