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date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the political origins of South Korea’s rapid economic development in the 1960s and 1970s, with emphasis on the enduring effects of the developmental state era. It begins by considering developments since 1980, including the influence of democratization, the causes and consequences of the financial crisis of 1997–1998, and the market-oriented reforms pursued by the government in the wake of the crisis. It then discusses the legacy of the developmental state era in the coverage of the welfare state, along with the liberalization of the Korean economy beginning in the 1980s. The article documents South Korea’s transition into a market economy, marked by reforms in the financial sector and corporate governance, as well as reforms in foreign direct investment and even labor markets. Finally, it appraises a number of challenges that the Korean political economy must deal with, including growing economic and social polarization, inequality, and the social policy agenda.

Keywords: South Korea, economic development, developmental state, democratization, market-oriented reforms, welfare state, liberalization, market economy, financial sector, political economy

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