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The Shrimp that Became a Tiger

Transformation Theory and Korea’s Rise After the Asian Crisis


Bernhard Seliger

South Korea underwent a dramatic change in the last one and a half decades, from being considered a «tiger in trouble» in the wake of the Asian crisis to a showcase of economic development. The judgment of 1998 was itself a complete reversal of the previous enthusiastic reviews of world record-high growth for several decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Korea, once considered a shrimp between two mighty whales, Japan and China, veritably made a jump to become a tiger. And, after the steep decline of 1998, this tiger again showed its claws. This book deals not with the causes of the crisis in retrospect, but rather with the implications for the development of a new economic model in South Korea. It argues that the crisis and the following institutional change can best be understood by applying the theory of economic transformation.


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251 Chapter 14: Trajectories of Economic Integration in East Asia During the Kim Dae-Jung Government 14.1 Introduction: Economic integration in East Asia and the crisis When the leaders of the Southeast Asian and Northeast Asian states met in No- vember 2001 for the ‘ASEAN plus three (China, Japan and Korea)’ meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea pro- posed the exploration of an East Asian Free Trade Area and thereby opened a new chapter of East Asian integration. The special Northeast Asian perspective on regional cooperation became clear by the simultaneous agreement with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to hold annual meetings among their finance and trade ministers. At the same time, bilateral agreements like the FTA between Japan and Singapore, the tentative large free trade area between ASEAN and China, and the work-in- progress on a Japan-Korea Free Trade Agreement showed the new-found devo- tion with reaching regional trade agreements (RTAs). It seems the Asian crisis finally brought regional integration on the Northeast Asian agenda. After researchers as well as politicians maintained throughout the 1990s that economic integration in East Asia was something apart from integration proc- esses in Europe or America – namely “open regionalism” or a search for “de facto” instead of “de jure” integration – suddenly it seemed that the race for integration based on free trade treaties was unstoppable.251 This marks another change in the process of East Asian integration in addition...

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