Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2013

South Korea and the Global Economy in Transition

Gi-Wook Shin (ed.), Byongwon Bahk (ed.)

April 2012

Asia-Pacific Research Center


The editors believe that the study of the South Korean economy holds, or should hold, interest not only for Koreans but also for Americans and the international community as a whole. Korea has become a major player in the global economy, ranking thirteenth in GDP and seventh in exports among the world's nearly 200 countries. This should no longer come as much of a surprise to consumers across the globe who use Korean cell phones, drive Korean cars, and, increasingly, enjoy Korean pop music and movies. The Korean economy is also important as a leading model of development. In only two generations and despite national division and the devastation of civil war, South Korea has transformed itself from a largely agricultural economy to a world leader in manufacturing, which in turn facilitated its emergence as a dynamic democracy. The Korean experience holds many lessons for countries throughout the world as they also struggle to modernize in a highly competitive, globalized economy. Korea's success in navigating the turmoil caused by the global financial crisis and recession of 2008–2009 is yet another reason for studying its economy. Despite its economy being an astounding 85 percent dependent on international trade, Korea has been among the world's leaders in recovering from the crisis. Korea owes that success in part to the very hard lessons it learned from the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998. The five chapters selected for this compendium focus on some of the timeliest and most important issues involving the Korean economy.