Document Type

Journal Article


During 1962–1989, South Korea underwent a remarkable economic transformation from being poverty-ridden to attaining the status of newly industrialised nation. This transformation was achieved through the adoption of an outward-oriented, industry-led strategy. It was based, particularly during the 1970s, upon the development of large-scale industrial conglomerates and the attainment of economies of scale and technology to achieve international competitiveness. By the early 1980s, this strategy had resulted in major structural imbalances, a weakened financial sector, heavy concentration in domestic markets, and a repressed development of small and medium enterprises. By the end of the 1980s, despite attempts at economic reform, the structural and financial problems remained and became the country’s undoing during the crisis of 1997–1998. This article reviews the question whether Korea’s performance during this period can be described as an economic miracle. The empirical evidence is mixed and inconclusive, although the achievements of the Korean economy should not be underestimated.