Transformations in Twentieth Century Korea (Routledge Advances in Korean Studies)

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We are thereby made more aware of the complexities involved in the process of change leading to modernization. In the first chapter, Gi-wook Shin takes up perhaps one of the most contentious of these debates in the discussion of Korea's modern development: that concerning the sprouts of capitalism. The debate is a familiar one, having often been discussed in relation to Chinese and Japanese developmental history as well.

In Korea, this debate ranges nationalist historians who have found commercialization and wage labor in eighteenth-century Korea to be indicators of capitalism before the arrival of Japanese imperialism against other scholars who trace capitalism only to the colonial period. Shin's investigation of Korean capitalism's agrarian roots gives a more nuanced view of Japanese colonial rule by arguing that it led to neither exploitation nor modernization. Although Korean development was not entirely indigenous, it cannot be considered simply a transplant from the outside either.

In such a balanced approach, Shin is able to perceptively equalize the indigenous versus foreign development issues of the Korean development debate. In the next chapter, Larry L. Burmeister discusses agricultural cooperative development and change, extending Shin's treatment of the state in relation to rural development.


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Burmeister makes the point that the roots of Korean modernity can be better explained by understanding the interactions of agriculture and industry. Equally important is his observation that indigenous activism brought about by dissatisfaction with current conditions was, as Shin concurs, an impetus for organizational reform. This chapter also makes it clear how influential internal and external political developments have been in Korean modernization.

In the third chapter, Paul Kuznets takes issue with the common perception that Korea is a classless society, by stating that while since the late s income has increased, its distribution has not been as even as sometimes touted. Kuznets acknowledges that there would seem to be little doubt that rapid industrialization in Korea, as in other places in the world, was the cause of many changes. The rapid industrialization of Korea, Kuznets writes, was not a "miracle," however; it was a feature of many other states in East Asia.

The several other contributing factors that he identifies have been strong policy implementation, "national characteristics," a compact geography, lack of natural resources and a Confucian cultural heritage. While the chapter by Kwon and Suh conveys a sense of admiration for the awesome dimensions of the Hyundai Corporation, it also tempers such views, as does the following chapter by Lie.

In their totality, both chapters acknowledge the familiar features of the close relationship of the Korean state and the large industrial complexes. This apprehensiveness has continued and is increasingly informed by the growth of socially conscious criticism of the conglomerates within Korea.

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Transformations in Twentieth Century Korea

The following two chapters contain more specific examinations of the state's role in development, as Steven Hugh Lee analyzes US-Korea relations during the period from to and David Kang examines Korea as a developmental state in relation to its society.

Lee discusses how the South Korean bureaucracy worked closely with the state in formulating economic policy and thereby shaped the country's capitalist modernity. Lee is particularly effective when he critiques the application of Walt Rostow's modernization theory to Korea as an amoral rationale of economic development neglect of political freedom. Kang's treatment of inmaek personal connections and honmaek marriage connections between upper-level personnel of the conglomerates and government officials will confirm for many the already assumed collusion of interests between the two.

But, Kang's particular interest is an examination of the bureaucratic workings of the Korean developmental state. Lee concludes that Korean development of the s and s, personally sanctioned by Rostow, set the pattern for a top-down direction of economic development at the expense of political freedom. Kang concludes by proposing that, rather than monolithic, Asian economies and capitalist modernity are highly complex and would benefit from the combination of empirical research and theoretical work.

Most insightful are the ways in which each author sets Korea's development in the context of a wider Asia, thus adding to our knowledge of the regional similarities in state connections to development. Additionally, the combination of theoretical and empirical investigation in both chapters challenges the common knowledge basis of state-economy relationships. Larry L. Paul Kuznets.

Kwon Seung-Ho and Suh Chung-suk. John Lie.

Asian Studies: Routledge Advances in Korean Studies - Routledge

David Kang. Kim Uchang.

Confucianism, Democracy and the Individual in the Modernization of Korea 9. Sheila Miyoshi Jager. Daniel Chirot. Minja Kim Choe.

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