On the eve of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, South Korea had less than one-third of the GDP per capita of its big neighbor, Japan. Despite thirty years of rapid economic growth, South Korea still relied on Japan for technology, investment, and orders. That reliance was made all the more unpalatable by the fact that, before and during World War Two, Japan had colonized Korea, raped its women, conscripted its men, and sought to wipe out two thousand years of Korean culture.
Fast forward twenty-two years, and South Korea is an economic behemoth. This country of 51 million people has the world’s 12th largest economy and boasts some of the world’s leading technology brands. Economically, South Korea still hasn’t caught up with its former occupier and oppressor, Japan, but the gap is now a manageable 25%. South Koreans no longer emigrate to labor in Japanese factories and farm fields. They have much better prospects at home.
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