If there is one country that symbolises peace and prosperity more than anything else it is South Korea. In the 71 years since its liberation, South Koreans have excelled and transformed their economy into a technological advanced country with one of the best infrastructures in the world. The people are dedicated and hardworking and the country ranks highly in education, job security, ease of doing business, healthcare quality and life expectancy.
The country’s economy soared at an amazing annual average rate of 10 percent for over 30 years in a period called the Miracle on the Han River, rapidly transforming it into a high income economy and the world's 11th largest by 1995.
South Korea has in just over half a century risen from chronic poverty to be today one of the world’s most dynamic industrial economies. It has positioned itself as a global player in technology in sectors like automobiles, semi-conductors and telecommunications, and its growth was accomplished despite resource constraints and geopolitical uncertainties. South Korea’s stellar performance is widely praised as a model for emulation,
Many developing countries have since tried similar strategies, but very few have succeeded. So what was it that made South Korea different? The most important factor has been human resources; without its well-educated, strongly motivated and highly disciplined workforce, South Korea would not have been able to achieve such success. Another factor was the government’s policy vision of a unified South Korean national goal.
To thrive in the global economy, South Korean companies had to invest heavily in technology and innovation, and were able to do so because of Korean’s cultural values emphasising frugality.
Korea stands on the threshold of delivering its second economic miracle. In a fiercely competitive and globalised business environment, Koreans have embarked on nurturing a creative economy, where huge investments, financial and human, are being made to ensure the innovative edge the country acquired is retained. It is indeed fascinating to hear and see first-hand these visions that the Korean people have developed for themselves.
In doing this, the South Korean economy has been able to deal with the emerging global economic challenges by strengthening its domestic sector, focusing more on high value-added services such as IT, medical and educational services and cultural tourism.
South Korea’s huge, well-built cities, which are key drivers for economic growth, offer a great model to urban planners around the world. Furthermore, South Korea’s saemaul or new village movement, which modernised the countryside, is held up as a development model for other developing countries. This is because it mobilised rural communities to build towns, significantly reducing rural poverty in the process.
Attaining such amazing success in all fields the Koreans have shown the world that with determination, hard-work and resilience, success follows.
By Reaven D’Souza