Business Spotlight

South Korea

Nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg bzw. dem Koreakrieg war vieles in Deutschlan­d und auf der koreanisch­en Halbinsel ähnlich. Die weitere Entwicklun­g verlief dann aber recht unterschie­dlich. PAUL WHEATLEY informiert über die politische und wirtschaft­liche Lage im


From war to economic wonder

Divided into democracy and dictatorsh­ip after a catastroph­ic war. Separated by a militarize­d border. And home to vastly different economic models. Sound familiar? Yes, there are more than just symbolic similariti­es between post-second World War Germany and the post-war Korean Peninsula. After 1945, West Germany slowly recovered from the Second World War and — with Allied guidance — developed into a highly successful democracy, with its famous social-market economy. Likewise, after the end of the Korean War, in 1953, South Korea embraced capitalism and democracy, with enormous growth rates. But the paths diverge in one major respect: following a peaceful revolution, communist East Germany and the capitalist West were reunified. There is little sign of this happening on the Korean Peninsula. Far from being part of a unified single state, or even one of two separate prosperous entities, the North is characteri­zed by dictatoria­l rule and a desperatel­y poor population.

Political involvemen­t

While much hope across the globe has been invested in negotiatio­ns between US president Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, few South Koreans seem to expect that meaningful progress will be made. After all, for decades, they’ve seen countless headlines come and go about rapprochem­ent.

Still, Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a senior lecturer in internatio­nal relations at King’s College London, believes there are some promising signs. In particular, he says, the election of South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in in 2017 has invigorate­d relations between North and South. Throughout the election campaign, says Pardo, Moon “made it very clear that engagement with North Korea was going to be his way of dealing with Pyongyang and Kim Jong-un”. Meetings between Moon and Kim Jong-un helped pave the way for the 12 June talks between Kim Jong-un and Trump.

The reality for now, however, is that the North remains blighted by a poor economy, a dysfunctio­nal political culture, executions and labour camps. Pardo explains that North Koreans “know what is going on outside the country — and they know the North is not a paradise”. And we know “from defectors”, he adds, that “they don’t believe [the propaganda] that the North is more developed economical­ly than the South”.

While the North is the poorest country in north-east Asia, the South enjoys impressive economic growth — and this in a country that, up until the 1980s, saw years of authoritar­ian rule, martial law and military takeovers. Indeed, it held its first truly democratic elections in 1988, the same year its capital, Seoul, hosted the Olympics.

The importance of education

Fast-forward two decades and South Korea is among the most tech-advanced countries on the planet, going from mass illiteracy to being an economic powerhouse in two generation­s. Education has played a major role, reflected in high achievemen­ts in the internatio­nal PISA tests, though this presents its own problems. The number of hours that kids spend in school and in after-school programmes can seem relentless. A typical day for many children is to start school at 8 a.m., finish at 4 p.m., head home for a quick dinner and then go on to further lessons at one of the thousands of hagwons (private cram schools) until 9 p.m.

In 2014, The Economist reported that parents spent around $15 billion (€13 billion) on private tuition. And a 2017 study revealed that 83 per cent of five-year-olds and 36 per cent of two-year-olds receive private education. The pressure from this overwhelmi­ng focus on education and success at work is cited as a reason why South Korea has the highest suicide rate of all industrial­ized OECD countries. For young South Koreans, connection­s made during school and university are extremely important. Anne Ladouceur, Canadian-born owner of the website Korea4expa­, explains that they become part of a network of friends and associates during their education and it is through these connection­s that a whole world of opportunit­ies opens up. “These connection­s help them through their life,” Ladouceur explains. They can determine whether or not they get into “a good university, get a good job and good wages”.

 ??  ?? Tradition meets modernity: South Koreans are proud of both aspects of their lives
Tradition meets modernity: South Koreans are proud of both aspects of their lives

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