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JSPES, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2017)
pp. 30–57

Institutional, Political, Economic, and Social Development of South Korea

Elias Sanidas

Seoul National University

The Korean experience of societal and economic development is unique in the world. Our endeavor here is to show how the Korean economy acquired its distinctive and highly successful characteristics mainly during the critical decades between the 1945 and 1990. The key factors have been: First, a prevailing political regime that exhibited high levels of vision and effectiveness in pursuing social and economic reforms. Second, the exceptional ability with which successive five-year plans set out by the government were executed. Third, a particular type of kinship-based business organization emerged, the Chaebol, which contributed to Korean development in two main ways: the owners of these businesses (extended families) closely followed the directions and planning process of the government, and their enterprises eventually formed a set of networks linking huge companies with smaller more specialist companies (the Chaebols network). Finally, the Korean people in general possessed a set of Confucianist cultural values that helped the whole process of development. Overall, a co-evolutionary path existed between institutions and business typology and practice.