Developmental Models that Led to Economic Success in Japan and South Korea

Developmental Models that Led to Economic Success in Japan and South Korea

  • Japan and South Korea have adopted efficient developmental models that have significantly accelerated their economic growth in the post-war era.
  • They have recorded a remarkable economic development after the Second World War, and this aspect explains why researchers term the two countries as “economic miracle states.”
  • Within three decades, South Korea, in particular, has transformed from one of the weakest economies to an industrialist state.Japan, on the other hand, has recorded tremendous economic growth in the post-war period, and, thus, moving from a less-developed economy to a world economic hub.
  • However,previous researchers assert that Japan and South Korea use similar developmental models that explain the success of their economies. The argument is not the case since the two countries have implemented different economic policies in the post-war era.
  • The similarity in their economic policies is the focus on the expansion of exports. In this case, the export-led economic policies have accelerated fiscal growth in the two countries.
  • Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and export policies implemented in Japan and South Korea. It is therefore argued that export policies are a significant driver for economic growth in Japan and South Korea.
  • However, the research by Zang, Wenyu, and Mark (5) shows that a sole focus on export-led methodologies is a misleading factorwhen evaluating post-era economic growth in the two countries.
  • Japan was focused on expanding exports as an economic strategy to earn foreign exchange. Immediately after the Second World War, Japan needed adequate foreign exchange earnings to support its citizens that were suffering from the consequences of World War II.
  • It is therefore argued that export-led policies implemented in Japan were not aimed at expanding the economy. Instead, export earnings were needed to support citizens who were adversely affected by WWII by importing adequate food.
  • South Korea, on the other hand, was a Japanese colony, and,therefore, had different political situations. The country implanted export-oriented economic policies to boost its devastating economy after WWII.
  • Unlike Japan, South Korea experienced scarcity in economic resources,and, thus, had to focus on export-oriented policies to supplement its inflows in the form of foreign aids.
  • Apparently, similarities in economic policies were only on the surface. The reality is that Japan and South Korea had different developmental models geared towards the reconstruction of the war-destroyed economies.
  • However, South Korea and Japan had significant differences in external circumstances, domestic economic, and political situations.
  • Politically, Korea was divided into North and South Korea after a series of political actions that adversely impacted on its economy (1950-53).
  • There is a significant difference in theirexternal circumstances, in that, South Korea received massive foreign aids to reconstruct its economy after the Korean War, unlike Japan that entirely relied on mineral and technology exports.
  • Regarding the differences in domestic economies, Japan had adequate minerals and other natural resources to boost its economy whereas South Korea experienced scarcity in economic resources.
  • It is argued that Japan focused on exporting minerals whereas South Korea concentrated on industrialization besides import-substitution strategies.
  • However, South Korea had a small domestic market that did not favor its industrialization strategies. Japan, on the other hand, had a large economy that provided a readily available market for its locally produced products.
  • The difference in their export policies is that Japan focused on labor-intensive goods whereas South Korea specialized in technology-intensive products. The two aspects were key developmental models to boost economic growth in South Korea and Japan.


Work Cited

Zang, Wenyu, and Mark Baimbridge. “Exports, imports and economic growth in South Korea

And Japan: a tale of two economies.” Applied Economics 44.3 (2012): 361-372. Retrieved from:


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