CAN THE SOUTH KOREAN DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE BE GLOBALIZED?
The developing world has much to learn from the successful development experience of South Korea.South Korean development is fundamentally rooted in national insecurity based on the latent conflict with North Korea,but fundamentally supported by international sources of security that continue to provide a regional environment in which the Korean state can grow. Many,including the Koreans, have pointed to Korea as a successful model of development for underdeveloped countries. They have cited South Korea as one of the foremost examples of the success of international aid and official development assistance in modernization and state development. While the Korean model has proven successful, can itbe meaningfully globalized and replicated in other parts of the world without the regional conditions of East Asia and the Western Pacific? The argument may be made that the Korean experience is not necessarily unique and has already been successfully regionalized as part of the success of the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea) and Japan. There may be little hope in seeking to reproduce an East Asian model of development beyond the western pacific where China and Vietnam are rapidly implementing the lessons of Japan and the Asian tigers through an integrated communist and market based approach. Never the less, the experience of Korea and East Asia is instructive regarding the role of externally based security in development, as well as the role of donor interests in the effective transfer and implementation of international aid.
The success of Korea cannot be separated from the success of the other high income East Asia states, nor can it be separated from the security architecture governing the pacific and East Asia in the Cold War and post-Cold War. In the wake of World War 2 and onset of the Cold War, the security interests of the US in the Pacific and Asia coincided with the development and security needs of Korea, as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. At the close of the World War, the East Asian countries were concerned with ending European and Japanese colonialism, and with developing strong modern states that could no longer be dominated by outside forces. Most Asian countries were divided about how to accomplish these goals; some perceiving communism and an eastern alliance as best, while others perceiving a western (US) alliance and capitalism as the best means by which to accomplish both tasks. As a result civil conflict ensued in Cambodia, China, Korea,Malaysia, and Vietnam. The communists gained control ofVietnam, while China and Korea were split into two. The areas and states furthest into the pacific or coasts were most avid for western assistance(Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea), while those further inland sought Soviet support (China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea).
With the outbreak of the Cold War, in Asia and the Pacific the US’ primary interests were not hemisphericor regional domination as they practiced in Latin American, the Caribbean, and later the Middle East. Nordid the US have neocolonial ambitions in Asia as the French and Britishhad in post-colonial Africa. The US’sprimary interests were halting the overrun of Asia by communism, containing the Soviet Union and Communist China, and restricting communist ideology to the traditional European and Asian borders of those two states. The rehabilitation, development, and integrationof an independent East Asia into the global capitalist system was keyto the anticommunist containment strategy bycreating a capitalist buffer zone along the western Pacific to compliment the Eastern Pacific and North Atlantic capitalist zones. This convergence of interest allowed for the necessary security and political conditions, as well as economic and technological assistance, necessary for the rapid development of the East Asian Tigers and rehabilitation of Japan in the aftermath of the Second World War. The US established military bases in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, while the British continued to be the source of security for Singapore and Hong Kong. Aid assistance, technology transfer, and access to western markets were all provided within this security framework.
Such a convergence of regional security and development interestshas occurred in very few areas in the 20th and 21st century. The second most successful example is observable in the coastal gulf mini states of the Middle East including UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain who have achieved remarkable levels of development in the Middle East far beyond their larger gulf counterparts.They are all critical points in the US Middle Eastsecurityarchitecture by which to contain or control the larger gulf oil states of Iraq and Iran.
It is questionable whether the developmental model of South Korea could be repeated without replicating theseregional security conditions. In the aftermath of the Cold War the success of East Asia is now further complimented by the capitalist economic developments occurring in politically communist Chinaand Vietnam.Both of these states benefit from the success or their neighbors, the stability of the region, and increasingly friendly relations with the US. How then may the Koreans sell their development model to the underdeveloped world without the necessary regional conditions to execute it?
First, in promoting their development model or the lessons learned within it, the Koreans must emphasize the role of regional security and international political conditions. However these are largely beyond the control of poor countries as well as many rich countries. Second, the Koreans must emphasize the role of interests in international aid. There is no true altruism or morality in the donation of international aid; all aid is condition by interests. Aid effectiveness is dependent on the convergence of interests between the donor and recipient. Donor motive is the key element in resource transfer and states in need of aid must carefully decipher the interest of possible donors. Recipient motive is the key factor in implementation and donors must carefully decipher the intentions of the governing regime. Where the interests of the donor and recipient converge or are parallel, aid regimes will be effective.Where their interests fundamentally diverge, aid efforts will be ineffective. The instructive lesson for underdeveloped states is to seek aid fromdonor countries and organizations whose interests compliment or paralleltheir own.
South Korea should seek to educate the world on its successful development experience, however that experience cannot advertised as Korean exceptionalism and divorced from the broader success of the region. The Korean experience is highly instructive regarding the role of government in the developmental process, the appropriate role and timing of democratic reform, and the efficiency of the market system.Yet still the question remains, “How do you implement the lessons of the Korean development model without similar regional and security conditions?” Until the question is answered, Korea aid agencies will only be speaking of the success of South Korea and the Asian tigers for years to come.
Hene Claude Ayompe
*This is our intern’s column. -KFEM-