chapter  4
18 Pages

Forming the developmental alliance

The coup d’état of 1961 marked a turning point in the fortunes of modern Korea: with Park Chung Hee forcibly taking the reins of leadership, the key focus of the political elite shifted away from self-aggrandisement and towards national development. Although initially greeting the coup with some reservations, the United States offered a substantial degree of military, economic and political support to Park and his coterie. The US also encouraged Japan to foster and support Korean industrial development from the end of the decade. With the support of such powerful allies, the Korean state was well placed to take a lead role in developing the national economy. The Korean state under Park was also able to deploy a significant degree of coercive power, evident in the suppression of the labour movement and political dissent. This coercive power was harnessed in support of Park’s developmental project, with a commonly cited manifestation of this being the disciplining of big business (chaebols). Alice Amsden (1992), for instance, argues that the state both supported and disciplined the chaebols through its control of credit. In this way the state was the ‘senior partner’ in the developmental alliance with business.