South Korea Table of Contents
The major issue facing the Park regime in the early 1960s was the grinding poverty of the nation and the need for economic policies to overcome this poverty. A critical problem was raising funds to foster needed industrial development. Domestic savings were very low, and there was little available domestic capital. This obstacle was overcome by introducing foreign loans and inaugurating attractive domestic interest rates that enticed local capital into production. Of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, only South Korea financed its economic development with a dramatic build-up of foreign debt, debt that totaled US$46.8 billion in 1985, making it the fourth largest Third World debtor. Foreign corporate investments were primarily of Japanese origin.
As noted by consultant David I. Steinberg, Seoul administered a series of economic development plans. The government mobilized domestic capital by encouraging savings, determined what kinds of plants could be constructed with these funds, and reviewed the potential of the products for export. In this sense, the will of the government to undertake economic development played a crucial role; the role of the government, however, was not limited to such measures as mobilizing capital and allocating investments.
Steinberg also pointed out that Park's government restructured industries, such as defense and construction, sometimes to stimulate competition and other times to reduce or eliminate it. The Economic Planning Board established export targets that, if met, yielded additional government-subsidized credit and further access to the growing domestic market. Failure to meet such targets led to Seoul's withdrawal of credit.
Data as of June 1990