“Made in Korea” brands such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG, Kia and Lotte are well-known brands around the world. These brands have emerged triumphant in the highly competitive global manufacturing environment.
On a recent trip to South Korea, our guides Wang and Park gave us a brief insight into the country’s meteoric rise as an economic powerhouse. South Korea currently ranks first in the global economy, whether in shipbuilding, building skyscrapers and huge bridges, or in the electronics and smartphone industries. And without forgetting, the world of K-beauty.
“We are now the fifth largest automaker in the world and our plastic surgeons are some of the most trusted young women in the world,” said one of the guides.
South Korea was an abandoned and impoverished country shortly after the end of the Korean War in 1953. It was then plagued by countless political upheavals as well as civic protests. So what exactly contributed to the incredible transformation of the country? The most important factor is none other than the people’s incredible commitment to hard work as well as their love for their homeland.
Any discussion of South Korea’s rise cannot go without mentioning its late President Park Chung-Hee, whose tenure from 1960 to 1978 marked a turning point in the country’s development. He resolutely initiated a national policy, the New Life Movement, to industrialize the country, increase its industrial production, promote exports and create more employment opportunities for the population.
Thanks to all this, South Koreans have enjoyed rapid growth in per capita income and an enviable standard of living. They bought new electrical appliances and lavish apartments, and embraced modern life as never before, as a sure way to boost domestic consumption.
Sadly, Park was later assassinated, but we can’t deny that he remains one of the most respected leaders among South Koreans to this day.
Her daughter Park Geun-Hye was elected the country’s 18th and only female president in 2013. She served until 2017 and was impeached that year following a huge corruption scandal, which condemned her to 22 years in prison in 2018. She was pardoned late last year by then South Korean President Moon Jae In (he served until May this year). Park’s ascension to the presidency was a significant boost for women in a traditionally patriarchal society.
Even though Korean society is, at first glance, very male-centric, South Korean men generally highly value the selfless contributions of their mothers and wives, especially when it comes to education and home care. For this reason, most men do not let their wives work after marriage and would gladly hand over their monthly paychecks to their wives.
Interestingly, Korean family relationships are still very much established on Confucian teachings, as they continue to maintain mutual respect in their daily lives.
Our guide Wang explained, “You will only have a prosperous career if you have a harmonious family. So, men are usually the ones who go out to work while their wives take care of everything at home. Everyone is doing their part for the house and the nation, and it is such commitment that has laid the solid foundation for the phenomenal economic development of the country.
You may still remember the Asian financial crisis of 1998 which saw Thailand and South Korea badly bruised, even though it only took 18 months to fully recover. Call it a miracle or something, but have you ever thought about how they managed to bounce back so quickly?
Few of us know that at that time the women of South Korea united as a nation and worked together to boost the economy. They are said to have taken all of their jewelry and donated it to the public treasury in order to help the country through its worst economic crisis in modern times.
After several years, the government kept its promise and returned all the “contributed” money to the people.
It is thanks to such an incredible display of patriotism among its people that South Korea has safely navigated through many turbulences and uncertainties over the years, ensuring that the country will always keep moving forward.
The successful hosting of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and the 2002 FIFA World Cup speaks volumes about the country’s exceptional organizational efficiency. Its second city, Busan, is currently a candidate for the 2030 World Expo. I hope they get it!
Koreans are really great people. Apart from the physical infrastructure, they also excel in the “soft power” that drove the world crazy.
Do you remember PSY’s Gangnam Style? First we had K-pop dances that sparked a worldwide craze for all things Korean in the entertainment world. There were TV series like Dae Jang Geum, Winter Sonata, and most recently Squid Game (which aired in 96 countries around the world), as well as K-pop idols like BTS and Blackpink. Together, they helped raise trillions of foreign dollars to fatten the country’s coffers.
The Hallyu wave is still going strong today and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of it abating anytime soon. Many foreign tourists have traveled to the country hoping to see a Korean celebrity or just to visit some of the locations that have appeared in their favorite K-dramas or movies.
During our trip to Seoul, we appeared on local television as we were the first group of foreign tourists to enter South Korea after the lockdown. We had a thoroughly enjoyable immersive South Korean experience throughout our 13-day trip, as we were able to appreciate the country’s miraculous rise first-hand. Of course, we couldn’t help but contribute to the country’s economy by buying “souvenirs” like the fabulous Korean ginseng, cosmetics, face masks and the authentic KF94 face masks!
(Interestingly, South Korea has never imposed any form of nationwide lockdown since the start of the pandemic, while on-site dining has always been allowed in restaurants. Domestic demand remains robust for this country. of 50 million inhabitants.)
The opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has traveled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He is also the author of five books.