Korea is one of the most successful East Asian developmental states on the basis of its economic performance since the 1960s. The country's development of an advanced industrial economy has been the subject of numerous studies, with the two main schools in the literature being neoliberalism and statism.
Neoliberals have tended to emphasise the formulation of market conforming policies as the crux of Korea's success, positing that the state 'got the fundamentals right' by ensuring that the economy had an ample pool of labour that could be injected into the economy. Statists, in contrast, argue that the state's main achievement was to get the fundamentals wrong through judicious intervention to adjust macroeconomic levers, such as interest rates, prices and wages.
Regardless of the merits of these arguments, a review of the literature reveals an overwhelming emphasis on the state. Economic development is a process involving all facets of society yet capital has been systematically under-theorised in the literature. This study provides a corrective measure by emphasising that the process of economic development in Korea entailed ongoing collaboration between the state and the chaebols within a developmental alliance.
This study re-examines the process of economic development in Korea. It emphasises the chaebols' accumulation and exercise of 'structural power', the power capital accrues via its role and position in the economy. This draws attention to the politics of development.
The thesis identifies the conditions that enhance this form of power. It then examines the interaction within the developmental alliance of structural power and state infrastructural power. The state seeks to induce co-operation on the part of the chaebols in order to pursue the developmental project.
The study argues that contextual variables such as economic conditions, globalisation, social expectations, national security and the economic bureaucracy influence power relations within the developmental alliance. These variables help illustrate the dynamics of the process of economic development as a whole rather than only the role of the state. The study explicitly relaxes the assumption of state dominance. This expands the potential for both conflict and co-operation within the developmental alliance.
The study thus assumes that relations between the state and chaebols are highly dynamic and subject to change. By viewing development from such a perspective, the thesis examines the politics of economic development in the post-war period. The study thus provides a more textured understanding of the Korean experience of economic development.