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The Korean Economy in Transition: In Search for a New Model


  • Doowon Lee


Prior to the 1997 financial crisis, the Korean economy had based its growth policies on East Asia's economic catch-up model which was based mainly on the Japanese development experience. However, the events that lead to the 1997 crisis and the changes instituted in the Korean economy after the crisis have put to question whether the traditional East Asian growth model will continue to be viable. This paper examines two alternative models of development, namely the “Anglo-Saxon” and the “Continental European” models, and evaluates their relevance for Korea's future development challenges. Despite many common features these models share, they are also quite distinctive with regard to their treatment of the labor market system and the role of government. By focusing on the model's capacity to expand employment and to provide sustainable growth as the most important criteria, it is suggested that Korea should follow the “Anglo-Saxon model”, at least in the short- to medium-term. In comparing Korea's economy with other advanced economies when they were at the similar stage of development, it is found that Korea's growth potential lags behind that of countries such as Japan, Germany, Finland, and Ireland. The efficiency of Korea's investment is found to be only slightly better than Japan while it is inferior to all other advanced economies. Despite these challenges, Korea is apparently moving toward the “Continental European model”, with the Korean government increasing its own size and plans for further expenditures on social security and welfare. However, in order to ensure sustainable development with significant job creation, this paper argues that Korea should switch its direction and adopt the “Anglo-Saxon model” as soon as possible.

Suggested Citation

  • Doowon Lee, 2006. "The Korean Economy in Transition: In Search for a New Model," Global Economic Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(2), pages 207-230.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:glecrv:v:35:y:2006:i:2:p:207-230
    DOI: 10.1080/12265080600715475

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barro, Robert J, 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 103-126, October.
    2. Kirsten Daniel & W. S. Siebert, 2005. "Does employment protection reduce the demand for unskilled labour?," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 197-222.
    3. Balassa, Bela, 1988. "The Lessons of East Asian Development: An Overview," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(3), pages 273-290, Supplemen.
    4. Kenneth H Kang & Hong Liang & Henry Ma & Anthony J. Richards & Ajai Chopra & Meral Karasulu, 2001. "From Crisis to Recovery in Korea; Strategy, Achievements, and Lessons," IMF Working Papers 01/154, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Yung Chul Park & Jong-Wha Lee, 2003. "Recovery and Sustainability in East Asia," NBER Chapters,in: Managing Currency Crises in Emerging Markets, pages 275-320 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Alwyn Young, 1995. "The Tyranny of Numbers: Confronting the Statistical Realities of the East Asian Growth Experience," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 641-680.
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