ABSTRACT

Faced with the phenomenal growth of the South Korean economy, many observers pointed to the large business conglomerates – chaebo˘l – as the principal engine of economic growth. William Overhold, an American businessman, stated that chaebo˘l constitute “the most efficient economic machine the world has ever seen” (Stephens 1998: 193). Most scholars are more circumspect in singing their praises but many nonetheless equate chaebo˘l growth and economic dynamism (Amsden 1989; Steers et al. 1989). In this view, Samsung, Hyundai, and other business conglomerates embody the spirit of entrepreneurship and efficiency.