From a Tradition of Rich Cultures to a Nation of the Rich
James Mahoney: Why Are Some Countries Richer Than Others?
South Korea: from a tradition of rich cultures to a nation of the rich
South Korea’s rapid economic development is of no coincidence ' its surge from a corrupt autocracy governed by traditional and backward rulers and the wealthy but detached elite to a democratic nation proud of its cultural roots and rich in its variety of technology and innovations ' is but a direct influence from the colonial domination of Japan in Korea from 1910-1945. The period that Japan dominated Korea is known as the “Japanese Imperial Period,” in which Japan, after winning the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese Wars, implemented its power of imperialism after that of developed Western nations in hopes of establishing an internationally formidable reputation for itself.
The Japanese Meiji Restoration, occurring in the late 19th century, was a period in which Japan flourished in technology and industrial advancements and opened its doors to Western policy. After Commodore Matthew Perry’s stay at Japan, Emperor Meiji realized that in order to achieve full independence, a nation must have the means to defend itself. Thus, an era of accelerated industrialization, militarization, and political, social, and economic reforms began (Kim 26). In modeling its political system so that the state is central to power, Ito Hirubumi, a former Meiji era premier of Japan, had “led the campaign to make the bureaucracy the absolutely unassailable base and center of political powering in the state system” (Kohli 1273). As Japan rapidly reformed its political structure, its emphasis on centralized state power is decisive in shaping the political economy of South Korea (Kohli 1270). At the time of Japan’s transformation, South Korea was a centralized and weak social institution that was flowing with corrupt government officials who...