One unfamiliar with the Republic of Korea, or South Korea as it is more commonly known, may immediately associate the country with its short yet significant war against its neighbor to the north in the 1950s. More than half a century later, South Korea stands strong as one of the powerful Asian Tigers in the global trade arena, a presidential republic presently ranked among the top ten exporters in the world. With over 300 billion dollars of export revenue recorded in 2009, this tiny country does an enormous business in technology and transportation industries that effect how the world moves and works daily.
The Miracle on the Han River
Once a destitute area held under Japanese imperial rule, then split from North Korea after World War II, South Korea underwent major growth beginning in the 1960s through rapid industrialization and democratization. Through drastic measures that included conservative spending of government budgets, improvement of education, and expansion of agricultural mechanization, South Korea saw an impressive rise in their gross national product over the next thirty years. By 1989, the country prepared to enter the next decade with an impressive GNP of over 200 billion dollars, 68 times the total from the early 1960s!
Today, this complete free democracy is known as one of the top exporters to the United States, particularly in the technology and automotive sectors. If you own a Hyundai Elantra or Accent, you are driving a South Korea import. In fact, you may have a number of items in your home or office that come from this emerging Asian economy.
- Flatscreen Televisions: as the world’s largest manufacturer of LCD, OLED, and plasma screens, South Korea keeps up with the growing global demand for high definition television. The Samsung Group, maker of the popular brand, are based in Seoul.
- Automobiles: Not only is Hyundai the top automaker in South Korea, it is the second largest car manufacturer in Asia, and presently one of the top companies in terms of actual cars sold. Other makes originating from this country include Kia and Daewoo.
- Shipbuilding: The materials needs to build the ships that carry cargo for global trade are made in the ports of this country. South Korea is perhaps the largest provider of the raw steel and other items needed to keep maritime commerce running smoothly.
- Mobile Communication and Electronics: Do you own an LG phone? If so, you own a product from this country’s second-largest telecommunications company. This multi-faceted business also produces popular electronics, including DVD and Blu-Ray players, Flash memory drives, and laptops.
It may surprise you to realize that many household items you feel you cannot do without come not from Japan or China, but this major economic giant. Given their amazing growth over the latter half of the twentieth century, and higher projected numbers in the decades to come, one might expect South Korea to eclipse her neighbors in the IT industry. So long as the global demand for faster and quicker ways of communication remains high, it’s safe to bet the telecom conglomerates of South Korea will emerge to the forefront of new innovations.