Asia-Pacific, South Korea

South Korea: From Struggle to Success

When you research the fastest growing economies in the world right now, South Korea naturally comes up at the top of the list. South Korea’s economy is not only dominating the cosmetic world with some of the best products regarding quality and price, but also the culinary world, technology, and even media.

History of South Korea

Going back half a century, South Korea was a struggling country coming out of the destructive Korean war resulting in countless injuries, deaths, relatively older demographics, and a completely shattered economy. Close ones were separated, and people started living their lives scared of the ghost that is war, and the ultimate enemy; North Korea.

For several years civilians were struggling to put water and food on their plates. What is more, some were relying solely on foreign donations to survive. However, one look at the state of the country now and one would notice a significant change. Away from a struggling nation, South Korea now has a say in what trends circulate the world. Seoul, the capital, has become one of the biggest touristic attractions in the world.

Furthermore, people from all over the world are purchasing their products. The path that South Koreans followed to make changes to their country grabbed my interest because it seemed like a spark of hope for developing countries and their citizens whose nations are way behind everyone else. They are blaming their governments for limiting their opportunities.

Rates of immigration are skyrocketing on a yearly basis. What is more, people are competing over lives in more developed countries chasing after better payment, and comfortable living conditions. I wanted to write this article to prove to them, that the ultimate proof that small changes and dedication can make a difference is South Korea. I wanted to show them how Koreans saw an opportunity in their devastating historical situation to build a new, healthy, and inspiring country.

So how did South Korea make the transition?

Welcoming Intellectual Help From More Developed Countries

One of the smartest steps Korea has taken is welcoming intellectuals from abroad to form their youth. They realized that the younger generation constituted the future of their nation and they heavily invested in developing it. They offered good payment and housing to seduce the best and most knowledgeable people in every field. Aside from spreading knowledge, the instructors spread awareness of the world and inspired a new global view. They followed the principle of “the more knowledge we have, the more opportunities we can grasp.”

Valuing education is the first step to creating a powerful country, recent studies conducted in 2010 on 25 to 34 years old Koreans showed that 97% of them graduated high school, and a majority of 65% of them attained university studies.

South Korea Infrastructures
Construction in Daejeon, South Korea

Working On Infrastructure

Another sound investment the South Korean government made was in building infrastructures. South Korean infrastructure companies are some of the biggest in the world today. It all started with the 1970s economic growth in the nation.

The government gathered enough funds and chose to put it into building facilities that helped the industrialization movement. Years forward, the government switched its focus to developing the transportation system and power supplies. These fields are one of the hardest parts to improve in any country especially if one is starting from scratch. That is why the government looked for help in the private sector. This move was beneficial for several reasons. The first being was taking the weight off the public sector and allowing it to focus on other projects; the second is creating competition in the private field on landing the projects delegated by the government.

Competition meant a higher quality product with lower prices. The results were what they hoped for; the best public transit and power supplies in the world along with the best, most efficient companies to do the job. Nowadays, these same companies are working all over the world helping other
governments to develop these fields.

Developing Technology

South Korea is considered one of the most technologically advanced and digitally-connected countries in the world. After forming their new youth, the government once again took matters into hand and invested heavily on research and development. South Korea is now the proud home base of some of the biggest tech companies such as Samsung and LG Electronics. Throughout the years these companies completely dominated several markets beating all competitors in digital displays, electronics, semiconductors, smartphones, smart cars, industries that cost gold and diamond.

These companies allowed South Korea to play a leading role in the technology industry; it enabled it to make a name for itself as a reliable and high-quality source of products, which meant that their goods were now exported all over the world, broadening their market immensely. What is more, the technology did not stop with sold products; it was in fact incorporated into the daily lives of South Koreans especially in big cities.

Transportation systems, restaurants, houses, banking systems, and even streets were all redesigned to become the closest example of a smart city we can find realistically. Seoul is now officially considered the “tech capital of the world.” All in all, slowly but surely, South Korea took advantage of research and development to dominate the technology market.

South Korea City
Noon square in Myeongdong, South Korea

The Beauty Industry

The beauty industry is worth more than 200 billion dollars yearly today. It is a highly profitable industry that South Koreans perfected. In truth, South Korea’s beauty industry is now worth 13 billion dollars. With the growing interest in beauty these last years, this industry’s worth is growing exponentially.

What makes Korean beauty products so popular?

Asians, in fact, have always had an interest in skincare and beauty products. They are known for ancient miracle mixtures to fix all beauty issues one might have. In the beginning, the key for South Korean marketers was to utilize the historical reputation of the country to sell their products. This method gave birth to a fast-growing industry that soon built its reputation all over the world making Korean products some of the most desired ones.

Another field that started blooming in this country was cosmetic surgery. South Korea is now the first destination in the world for cosmetic surgeries. As the phenomenon went global, they even went as far as inventing “Beauty Tourism”; where cosmetic hospitals would market a formula to bring foreigners from all over the world in for a cosmetic surgery while taking care of their housing, their food, and some touristic activities to do alongside the operation. We can deduct that this country has perfected the art of seducing consumers. They used historical circumstances to give value to their products. They also refused to stagnate as they consistently created new ways to develop their products and services.


It is important to speak about media when speaking about South Korea because it constitutes one of its breakthrough points to the global Market. The major part of media that helped this country is cinema, TV broadcasting, and music. South Korean companies produce some of the highest quality content. During the last decade, it has been going viral taking the world by storm. The thing is when people love the content displayed; it becomes easy to use it to market to them products shown in the media outlets. A vivid example of this effect on the purchases people make is showing an actress using a lipstick on a tv show and broadcasting it. The product is immediately sold out worldwide the same day the broadcasting happened. This is the scary power of media that South Korean companies utilize fully.

Culinary World

Another field that benefited from the media’s power is the culinary world. While, for example, movies displayed the lifestyle of South Koreans, it naturally showed culinary habits of the country. Just like the lipstick example from before, it quickly became one of the most famous cuisines.

Restaurants started popping up all over the world, and they naturally required local spices, vegetables, base products, and even utensils from the origin country which created a market and an opportunity to export more goods. Aside from requiring tools, they also needed human resources that are familiar with the food which once again created valuable job opportunities for South Koreans all over the world.

Whether they were chefs, manufacturers, or merchants, Citizens were able to benefit from this phenomenon, and by paying taxes to the government, the latter in return helped greatly.

South Korea Business
Namdaemun market in Myeongdong, South Korea


Good tourism is the result of all the fields cited above. It is only natural for a highly educated country that developed its infrastructure, its technology, and marketed itself in the best way using media outlets, and high-quality products, to seduce tourists from all over the world. It was only a matter of time before people started visiting, what is more, many preferred moving to the country, making cities like Seoul a truly global city, and South Korea a highly desirable country to visit.

Lesson Learned: Change Is Possible!

Coming from a country with not many natural resources, not a lot of fertile land, many enemies next to it, and relatively old demographic, the South Korean development seems like a real miracle. However, all is explained when we find out the work that has been put into developing this country and the dedication and organization. It is true that this country is still suffering from several issues, but, isn’t every country suffering from issues as well?

As I stated before, the South Korean example should be taken as an inspiration for all developing countries. It is a spark of hope that helps us see the opportunities in distress. It allows us to see that change is possible.

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