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Subject: How???
kane    3/19/2007 4:54:55 PM
How did Korea manage to come to this point in 50 years? They must have worked hard since they don't have very rich resources
 
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YelliChink       3/19/2007 5:05:52 PM
Yes, they work very hard.
 
In East Asia, there isn't much religious things to hold people back, and there is always a belief that the higher the education the better. The motivation to get out of poverty and get rich is always strong.
 
However, there is dark side of all the factors that contribute to South Korea's success.
 
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Photon       5/23/2007 11:54:15 PM

How did Korea manage to come to this point in 50 years?
They must have worked hard since they don't have very rich resources
I think it was a combination of luck and hard-work.

1.  Just as you have pointed out, the Koreans did not have much resources to speak of.  (Probably the only thing they had anything in large enough amount was coal.)  The South was in a worse situation than the North in 1945; the majority of industries (built during the Japanese occupation) and mines were located in the latter.

2.  The leftovers from the Korean War helped to jumpstart infant South Korean companies.  (Several of them will become today's Korean megacorporations in a few decades.)  Everything from surplus jeeps to army rations were pretty valuable and it was not uncommon to find them in black market.  (Not uncommon to encounter corruption coming out of folks working in US military bases. )  Even spent items like run-down jeeps and trucks were economically useful; there were entrepreneurs who had them refurbished and used them to run taxi companies, for example.

3.  It was not until Park Chung-Hee regime (He and his buddies launched a successful coup d'état in 16 May 1961.  One year after the fall of Sygman Rhee regime.) when the South Koreans began to put together significant economic plans.  It was not pretty, though.  He did things like devaluing the South Korean currency, normalizing relations with Japan (without requiring Japan to apologize for past aggression; his primary motive was to make a settlement with the Japanese one way or the other to get a large bundle of money to get things started).

4.  Probably the period between the late '60s and the early '80s were the most decisive.  The South Koreans sent troops to assist the Americans (I think somewhere arould 50,000 South Korean men served in Vietnam with about 5,000 killed).  In exchange, more US aid flowed into South Korea.  There was a saying back then ... 'The Seoul-Pusan Highway -- it was built by the blood of boys sent to Vietnam.'  Around the same time, thousands of Korean men and women went to Germany -- men mostly as miners, women mostly as nurses.  The key point in these two activities was in earning foreign exchange, something that a developing economy must accumulate.  Between the late '70s and the early '80s, there was a construction boom in the Gulf States, and the Koreans went there in the thousands.  Again, yet additional way of accumulating foreign exchange.  The foundation of Korean heavy industries (including petroleum and shipbuilding) began in that period.  Light industries (including textiles) also began as well.

5.  Notice how South Korea carried out their economic growth modeled after Japan.  Booming American market was a boon for the Korean export businesses.  Just like the Japanese, the South Koreans developed their heavy industries, then light industries, then electronics and high-tech industries.

6.  Korean agriculture:  It started out funny.  Sygman Rhee regime (1948 - 1960), although it was 'right-wing', had a cabinet member who was a communist!  He recommended that the land holdings of the gentry be broken up and distributed to farmers.  His recommendation was followed and by the dawn of the Korean war, this land reform was sorted out.  For the invading North Koreans, they found surprisingly little support from the South Korean countryside; the farmers in the South turned out to have gotten a better deal, plus it was already carried out.    (Off-topic:  Rhee's former communist cabinet member was put through a trumped up charge of treason and hanged in 1958.  He recommended that the South and the North establish diplomatic ties ... something quite taboo.)  But the South Korean countryside stagnated by the combination of capitalism (there will be farmers who will sell their lands, thus the emergence of new larger landholders) and flood of foreign crops (mostly from the US).  South Korea's farms alone could not sustain their population -- the land was just darn too small, and even if not, how the hell could they compete with much huge American imports?

7.  Issues that are still headache-some:  Poor labor-employer relationship, as well as poor farm-government.  Disproportionate power to the megacorporations and diminishing small companies.  Poor treatment of foreign migrant workers.  Lack of transparancy, inadequate law-enforcement (particularly in enforcing regulations over issues like taxation). 
 
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dba    350,000 South Korea troops rotated through Vietnam   4/7/2008 4:08:02 PM
Almost 350,000 South Korean army/marines rotated through Vietnam.  South Korea maintained 3 combat divisions (2 x Army and 1 x marine) in Vietnam, hence the number 50,000.  


 
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