Big Business Strong State

Big Business Strong State

E. M. KIM’S BIG BUSINESS STRONG STATE

This review essay summarizes and evaluates the above entitled book in which Korean author Kim discusses the factors which explain the remarkable economic growth of South Korea during the period 1960-1990. His central theses are that: (i) rapid economic development was successfully launched in the 60s by the authoritarian government of former General Park Chung Hee (Park) which through its centralized planning and controls over capital, credit and labor guided large industrial firms or chaebols into export-oriented industries in favorable international markets; (ii) in the 70s the South Korean economy made a successful transition from light manufacturing to heavy industry and continued to grow rapidly. The relationship between the Park regime and the chaebols became more symbiotic and coequal, the regime itself gradually losing legitimacy until finally Park was assassinated in 1979; and (iii) the developmental nature of the South Korean state itself changed under its new military leader Chun Doo Hwan (Chun) (1980-1988), as pressures on the state from the chaebols for less state control over the economy and from labor and others for more democracy and welfare spending grew. Nevertheless, the principal political and economic institutions of South Korea adapted sufficiently well to such changing conditions to permit a high rate of economic growth to continue well into the 90s. The South Korean experience is very similar but not identical to those of other East Asian societies which have achieved high economic growth rates, but very difficult to replicate elsewhere.

The book is an outstanding contribution to the literature of economic development and is notable for its clarity of expression and its solid documentation. Its principal shortcomings are the author’s timidity when it comes to recognizing that his own logic requires that he recognize the virtues of authoritarian rule in breaking the…

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