We will be meeting with Group 4 at 7:00pm, March 29th at the Free Speech Movement Cafe. As mentioned in class, due to spring break, we have decided to put off presentations by Groups 1 & 2 for another week. April 4th's lecture will bring us into what has been going on very, very recently in North Korea.
Answers for the in-class assignment (03/09/2010):
Topic: 1945-53 and South Korea (1953-97)
Topic: 1945-53 and South Korea (1953-97)
1. What were the 3 factors in the divergence between South and North Korea? In particular, what advantages did South Korea have that North Korea did not. [What factors did they share?]
By far the greatest advantage that South Korea had that North Korea did not was access to a gigantic consumer market that was more than willing to buy up anything South Korea would produce. Additionally, this was assisted by having access to foreign technology, foreign capital, and a superpower willing to both protect and subsidize the development of South Korea's economy.
Both South and North Korea have a legacy of a homogenous people with a strong sense of shared identity. For example, as pointed out with the sudden dip in gold prices in 1997 (as families in South Korea felt it to be a national duty to sell their gold to help the country regain some foreign reserves), the Koreas did not have to worry about a group (until about the 1980s, the Jeolla provinces come to mind here) that felt that they did not have a stake in the government. Koreans felt that if the country as a whole were to become richer, then they too would be better off. This allowed Korea to do things that might not be politically feasible in places such as Indonesia (where a slight reduction in gasoline subsidies sparked riots a couple years ago), such as quadrupling the price of gasoline overnight by fiat in the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo. Another example that comes to mind is systematic devaluation (and thus stealing money or "sacrificing" away the money of Korean households as their real purchasing power declines). Domestic consumption was discouraged and the government was able to extract high rates of savings from South Korean households and thereafter direct these savings into invesetment into "strategic" industries. These policies were in the aggregate very positive and saw South Korea take off on a path of sustained economic development (up until 1997 at which point Korean economic development took a different path). On a side note, this is the exact same explanation that is the rationale behind some of the more bizarre North Korean propaganda -- a common theme that (North) Koreans have a shared destiny (this of course, has probably changed somewhat since the famine).
Additionally, traditional Confucian values of education provided a highly educated, cheap labor force (which was unable to organize until the early 1990s and very similar to China's current policy of "official labor unions") with institutions that were only moderately corrupt. The term moderately corrupt is used to indicate that while corruption was (probably) pervasive throughout all levels of the country, even its dicatators were forward looking dictators that wanted to create a more prosperous and wealthy Korea.
And, finally, the most important is the mere presence of U.S. soldiers. When South Korea's geographical location and her neighbors -- the Soviet Union, North Korea, Communist China, and Japan are considered, it becomes clear how much South Korea would have had to invest toin an army/navy/air force that could credibly defend the country (it would have cost a fortune and probably take a ballistic missile program and nuclear weapons -- I imagine). Well, instead, that money went into developing the country further.
We can see many tangents with China's management of her economy with South Korea today [Taiwan's economic development was less about state directed economic growth into strategic industries and national champions, but rather the development of small and medium sized businesses. This is why there we are familiar with large, Korean multinational companies, such as Samsung or Hyundai, while Taiwan's smaller high tech companies do not have brand power that is usually associated with economies of scale and usually make components or chips for larger companies on a contractual basis, such as making chips for AMD or NVIDIA].
2. During the Korean War, from the perspective of those involved, what was gained (or lost) ?
China kept a buffer state between the U.S. soldiers and its boundary. Arguably, the country chose to defend North Korea rather than "unite" China -- by invading Taiwan. It was also a huge propaganda win for the Chinese government as PRC soldiers were able to stop the almighty United States. Nonetheless, the country lost hundreds of thousands of people (I'm guessing more), including Mao Tse Dong's only child.
This largely depends on what angle you're observing the situation from. But, by and large, the most significant benefit was that there was "no communist dagger" pointed at Japan and the United States too was able to secure a buffer state between U.S. occupied Japan and the "monolithic" Communist bloc. The United States lost about 50,000 soldiers. Nonetheless, the U.S. was left with defending and helping to develop a very poor country with no natural resources. U.S. soldiers have been in South Korea continuously from 1945 to today. However, the true dividends for the U.S. did come, but much much later (As discussed in class, the 1988 Seoul Olympics was probably a larger triumph for the United States than it was for South Korea).
Millions of people died. The country remained divided. And, there was no reconciliation of the fissures that were built up during the Japanese colonial period.
[Not really discussed] Probably the biggest benefactor of the war was that Japan was able to re-industrialize by supplying the United States war effort on the Korean Peninsula.
[Not sure here] But, I believe the Soviet Union didn't lose anything at all aside from the weaponry it supplied to North Korea and it's jet planes it got to test against U.S. pilots
3. At what point did the South become more prosperous than the North? [Not discussed, but, implicitly implied, at what point did South Korea become seen to be the more "legitimate" Korean state on the peninsula?]
Around 1980 is the point where GDP per capita figures -- an imperfect measure by any means when you have one country just building tanks and another building container ships, steel, etc for export take separate trajectories. But, nonetheless, after 1980, it becomes much more difficult to argue that the North was richer than the South.
I would say that the Summer Olympics of 1988 held in Seoul was the time when South Korea became to seen as the more "legitimate" state. The country recently held free and fair elections in 1987 and emerged as a democracy just in time for the olympics. Not only was the country seen to be much, more prosperous than the North (consider that South Korea had income levels comparable to subsistence economies in subsaharan Africa), but consider the year. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the first world (the US+friends) boycotted the summer olympics held in the Soviet Union in 1980. Then, consider that the second world (the USSR+friends) boycotted the summer olympics of 1984 held in Los Angeles. Only North Korea and Cuba boycotted the summer olympics of 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.
I suggest that it is at this point that all the billions of dollars subsidizing South Korea inally paid off for the United States.
4. What do you think about the fact that South Korea only recently emerged as a country with true democratic institutions? In your opinion does this seem surprising? Why or why not?
I thought it to be surprising that South Korea only recently emerged as a democracy and am even more surprised that this happened at all. South Korea as a Confucian society is a very vertically oriented society with no democratic traditions. Nonetheless, I suspect that unequal development is the probable suspect here as development of the southwestern Jeolla provinces was ignored during both the Japanese colonial period and during the military dictatorships that followed. You can check this by looking at voting patterns, which consistently show upwards of 95% of the people from the Jeolla provinces voting for the same candidate. At the same time, you have large numbers of people in the Southeast (Gyeongsang Provinces) and even Seoul that vote for candidates for the party that has been associated for military dictatorships (Although I mean political parties here, they are, by and large, undeveleoped as in they do not yet run on issues and are more keen to appeal to regionalism or are parties based around a single candidate... not unlike that of Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party or Ross Perot's Reform Party --- except it happens not once every hundred years or so, but every five years.