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The Park Chung Hee Era

The Park Chung Hee Era

The Transformation of South Korea

Edited by Byung-Kook Kim and Ezra F. Vogel

ISBN 9780674072312

Publication date: 03/11/2013

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In 1961 South Korea was mired in poverty. By 1979 it had a powerful industrial economy and a vibrant civil society in the making, which would lead to a democratic breakthrough eight years later. The transformation took place during the years of Park Chung Hee's presidency. Park seized power in a coup in 1961 and ruled as a virtual dictator until his assassination in October 1979. He is credited with modernizing South Korea, but at a huge political and social cost.

South Korea's political landscape under Park defies easy categorization. The state was predatory yet technocratic, reform-minded yet quick to crack down on dissidents in the name of political order. The nation was balanced uneasily between opposition forces calling for democratic reforms and the Park government's obsession with economic growth. The chaebol (a powerful conglomerate of multinationals based in South Korea) received massive government support to pioneer new growth industries, even as a nationwide campaign of economic shock therapy-interest hikes, devaluation, and wage cuts-met strong public resistance and caused considerable hardship.

This landmark volume examines South Korea's era of development as a study in the complex politics of modernization. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources in both English and Korean, these essays recover and contextualize many of the ambiguities in South Korea's trajectory from poverty to a sustainable high rate of economic growth.


  • This remarkable book will establish itself as the most significant work on the Park period.

    —Stephan Haggard, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California San Diego


  • Byung-Kook Kim is Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Korea University.
  • Ezra F. Vogel (1930-2020) is the author of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize, and of the international bestseller Japan as Number One. He was Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 744 pages
  • 1-1/2 x 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press