Developmental experiences of post war Japan and Korea

In 1945, after the end of World War II, many Asian nations and their economies had been brought down to crumbling levels. The GDP level in Japan, which had been quite high for sometimes, was reduced to a mere one third (Iriye 214). There was less to eat coupled with inadequate places of residence.

Life had become unbearable and riots broke out amongst the survivors. It prompted the government to react by instituting a production system that would pave way out of the crisis. This marked the beginning of the recovery process that aimed at reconstructing Japan. However, it was not until 1955 that the GDP levels in Japan were restored to the normal (Dower & George 461).

It is also important to note that Japan’s economic policy and her military were under the control of the United States from 1945 until 1952. United States had been an opponent of Japan during the World War II (Iriye 214). In order for Japan to survive and regain control of its policies, it made it a priority to begin economic democratization and working together with occupation authorities, they encouraged workers to unionize, did away with the Zaibatsu, which owned up to 40% of Japanese companies stock, and introduced land reforms.

The place of Zaibatsu was taken over by Kairetsu which was made up of a group of affiliated companies. In addition, banks were mandated to fund the companies rather than individuals who were rich.

In 1940, Japan began a system that was going to transform its policies. In the late 1940’s, Cold War begun (Iriye 214). The occupation authorities in Japan took advantage of this international situation to make a change in its policies. This chance was referred to as reverse course.

In 1950, a huge demand for Japanese goods was experienced (Iriye 214). This was due to the need for military supplies by the Americans during the Korean War (1950). Economic recovery in Japan began soaring high in1950 to 1952 growing by 12% each year and reached its climax when it regained its sovereignty after US occupation of their land ended in 1952.

In its quest to fully recover, Japan signed the Treaty of Peace (1951) in San Francisco to end war with the Allied powers except China and USSR. It also signed the Mutual Security Assistance Pact with the United States making her an ally of the US.
In the early postwar period, Japan had sought to improve its foreign policies with an aim of regaining economic viability (Dower & George 462).

Therefore, to prove to the world community its credibility, it subjected to the umbrella protection of the US thereby protecting itself from external and internal threat, military or otherwise from the region. This strategy ensured Japan of security against its Asian neighbors’ resentments and suspicions.

Under the shield of the United States, Japan used its omnidirectional diplomacy to concentrate on achieving economic growth and shed off politics. Using the policy of separation of politics and economics, it sought friendship ties with other nations and never took sides on matters affecting the East and the West.

To experience phenomenal economic recovery, Japan came up with principles that would guide its foreign policy actions. To begin with, it sought to encourage a free trade system that was friendly to its economic needs (Iriye 214). Secondly, Japan chose to closely cooperate with the US for both economic and security reasons. Also, it pursued international cooperation with multilateral bodies and with the UN (1956).

However, in the 1970s, after the tremendous growth of its economy, Japan sought to have her own independent policies. The fact that it was strong and having a great economic image and relations, Japan became less dependent on US and other Western powers for resources (Dower & George 478).

Many nations had developed and so resources could be obtained from other nations other than the US. For example, oil could be obtained from oil producing countries and not necessarily from multinational countries controlled by the Western countries. Therefore, having been overcame by the need for economic self-preservation; it sought resources from countries that provided it with essential raw materials and energy supplies.

However, Japan never separated from the US. It maintained its friendship with the US as a part of the de facto international front (Iriye 213). Through its policies and eventual economic stability, Japan became a source of help to many and especially those of strategic importance.

In addition, proper economic policies that would allow Japan to invest internationally were put in place. In mid 1980s, Japanese and United States currencies were realigned leading to Japan investing in Asia in trade and aid. Also Japan invested in United States and became a contributor to financial institutions as well as giving aid to international debt relief.

History stipulates that Korea was dominated by the Japanese from 1910 to 1945 as a colony. It owes its initial economic development and modernization to the Japanese (Dower & George 460). Earlier on before the Japanese took control over, Korea’s economy was crawling on its knees with its citizens having to labor in rice field or do barter trade to meet their basic needs. The industries were traditional manufacturing clothes and eating utensils.

In 1910 after annexation, Japan brought freshness in the Korean feudal agrarian system by blending it with modern industrial capitalism. In addition, Japan used some of its development policies to develop Korean economy, mobilize resources, develop infrastructure and raise productivity (Dower & George 470). After the war, South Korea’s strategies and policies had their developmental basis on the methods, policies and strategies used by the Japanese from 11910-50.

North Korea’s economic policies and strategies during the post war period were aimed at bringing about a self sufficient industrial base (Iriye 214). There was need for domestic industrial development, technology, foreign capital, foreign trade as well as international economic cooperation.

The fundamental task was to recover and perform better in their economy after Japanese occupation ended. In addition, using the communist bloc countries as structures of proper economies, North Korea sought to develop and restructure a viable economy having the same structures (Dower & George 457). In 1946, key industrial enterprises were industrialized and land reforms were initiated followed by introduction of wage and independent accounting systems.

In 1954-56, North Korea came up with a Three-Year Post-war Reconstruction Plan to regain the output levels of pre-Korean War. It was assisted in this endeavor by china, The Soviet Union and some East European Countries. Having completed reconstruction, North Korea started industrialization (Iriye 209).

However, North Korean industrial sector faced great difficulties as some of its financial gains were used for political campaigns. The consequence of this action saw no developmental growth but limited product diversity and chronic insufficiency. The strategies, policies and development experiences between Korea and Japan are the same in some way but different in many other ways.

To begin with, Korea adopted the development policies and strategies their former colonial masters had used in their land. For instance, in the early 1960’s, South Korea adopted the methodology and patterns of development the Japanese used to lift their economy up before the Korean War (Dower & George 465).

These are the same policies Japan used to develop itself. However, it is not proper to suggest that the growth experience for both Korea and Japan are similar. Japan, other than being a master over Korea, had a stronger and better economical background with strategies and policies some of which were used to raise the economy of Korea.
Secondly, after the war, Japan took refuge under the United States, a stronger and economically stable nation to get back on its feet economically (Iriye 210).

Under the shield and help of the US, Japan rose to the level of economic superpower in the 1970’s. Korea on the other hand, with emphasis on North Korea, struggled to bring back its economy to pre-war level without success (Dower & George 467). Their industries suffered and took longer to develop. In South Korea, it was until 1961 when Park Chung Hee came into power that the nation started realizing economic growth.

The USSR led communist bloc that had North Korea as an ally suffered major setbacks in 1979 when US and other developed nations checked expansion of the Soviet Union. This affected all nations that were depending on it for economic growth. In fact, North Korean industrial growth suffered while trying to fund USSR led bloc functions (Iriye 215). Meanwhile, it is important to note that Japan’s image at this time was impressive as being a developed nation.

In conclusion, there is a huge difference in terms of policies and development experiences between Korea and Japan. Japan’s foreign policy system proved to be a huge step to its success. It gave it close ties that are evident even today. This policy has helped to sustain it and make it a stable economy. Korea has been able to sustain its growth amidst numerous challenges. More policies are being made to sustain the growth of these nations.

Works Cited

Dower, John W. & George, Timothy S. Japanese history and culture from ancient to modern times: seven basic bibliographies, Princeton: Marcus Wiener, 1986.

Iriye, Akira. Power and culture: the Japanese-American war, 1941-1945, NY: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1981.