A week is a long time in … Korean economics

By Peter Corbishley

Given the present economic world order, last week was an opportune time for an update on Korean peninsular economics. First Aidan Foster Carter tells BAKS that in August President Lee Myung-bak’s military banned “Bad Samaritans,” by Chang Ha-joon, an economics professor at the University of Cambridge, for being un-Korean. Then on the same day the self-same Professor was at the LSE as part of an academic bridge-building exercise with Korean Universities, sponsored by the Korea Foundation. Well, Chang was able to give all kinds of interesting tit-bits as to how and when the ‘free market’ economy has acted as a ‘non-free market economy’ but the talk did not quite match up the billing of Korea’s response to the ‘credit crunch and all that’. Certainly, as Chang argues, Korea’s economy developed through protectionism, and no doubt emerging economies need to protect domestic industrial (and, given American agricultural subsidies, agricultural) production if they are to establish a secure basis for their economic development in the medium to long term. But I would guess that young soldiers were hardly likely to want to read about this kind of thing anyway, until Chang was banned, of course.

And here is our former UK-Korea Ambassador doing his bit:

Former ROK ambassador to the UK, Dr Cho Yoon-je (far left) at the Asian Development Bank conference in Manila, 18-19 September 2008
Former ROK ambassador to the UK, Dr Cho Yoon-je (far left) at the Asian Development Bank conference in Manila, 18-19 September 2008

PS: This Monday morning the BBC reports that the Korean Government has secured the foreign debts of Korean banks with $100 billion plus another $30 billion for good measure. And poor (economically?) President Lee promised economic growth of 7%… Incidentally if you are thinking of visiting South Korea currently your £1 buys around 2300 won whereas according to Frank Rudiger (SOAS Friday 17th “Transformation of State Socialism in East Asia: The case of North Korea”) inflation in the North is about 200%, yet he believes that the ‘toxic’ effect of money in circulation will bring things round.


One thought on “A week is a long time in … Korean economics

  1. I must say I was totally dumfounded by the blacklisting of Chang’s book. Hardly un-Korean: the message of the book is what Korea’s experience can teach the rest of the world about the alleged virtues of free-market capitalism. Maybe when you’re trying to push through an FTA with one of your major trade partners you shouldn’t be officially endorsing the partial protectionism which Chang advocates. But last time I looked, it wasn’t the military who were trying to get the agreement through the political process!

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