South Korea's exceptional growth story has been described by The Economist as a "from barefoot to broadband" journey. Slowly emerging from a fratricidious war and devoid of natural resources, in the early 1960s the country was poor and utterly dependent on American financial and military aid. Since 1962, however, gross domestic product has grown steadily and average per capita income has increased 100 times. Once a major receipient of development aid, today South Korea is a proud member of the exclusive club of donor countries. Yet relatively little is known about South Korea, besides its penchant for digital technology and sport utility vehicles and the meteoric rise of Psy and his Gangnam Style. The author describes the roots of the country's success the importance of long-term planning; the role of Samsung, LG, Hyundai and other large industrial conglomerates; the primacy of education and points to its limits the chaebols ability to hinder potential competitors, raising inequality, and fast aging. South Korea's vitality is already a source of inspiration for many developing economies.
Andrea Goldstein is an economist at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and an expert on emerging economies. He worked in South Korea in 2012/13.