2017-2018 Global Development Studies Senior Thesis Projects

Adam Chong '18

Project Title: The Lessons of Rapid Industrialization in South Korea

Summary: How did South Korea, a recently divided, poor nation-state with little to none capital and natural resources achieve such economic prowess and eventually, democracy? Differing perspectives on rapid industrialization can give several answers to this question regarding development. Using South Korea as a case study, this paper examines how the harsh effects of civil war and military rule eventually led to rapid economic development and a difficult transition towards democracy. My central question asks, how exactly did South Korea achieve political democratization? I will argue that it was the authoritarian regime’s “strength to concede” which prompted the path towards political democratization. After analyzing Korea’s decision to “concede” authoritarian power, I will argue that the central lesson we have learned from South Korea’s rapid industrialization is that the “Korea Model” is deemed untransferable and is truly one-of-a-kind in the East Asian context.