After thirty years of rapid economic growth, South Korea is widely promoted as demonstrating the superiority of free market capitalism. Along with Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, it is considered a great success story and model for third world development.
In this fascinating study, Martin Hart–Landsberg argues that such an assessment is seriously flawed. His clear and comprehensive discussion of South Korea’s highly centralized system of state planning shows that economic success had less to do with free market or free trade policies than with thorough state economic control. Further, in going beyond the free market myth, Hart–Landsberg carefully analyzes the repressive and unbalanced nature of South Korea’s growth process, shows how the country is now facing serious economic and political difficulties, and challenges those who promote South Korean state capitalism as a desirable model for other third world countries.
South Korea’s rapid but uneven development has also given rise to a growing popular struggle against the government and its policies. Hart–Landsberg discusses this movement and its increasingly successful efforts to win majority support for a radical transformation of South Korean society. Hart–Landsberg’s study makes it clear that while South Korea offers no ready–made development model, its experience nevertheless has much to teach those concerned with creating democratic and sustainable development.