The Asian Tigers. What makes them so successful?

Essay, 2016

13 Pages, Grade: A-


Table of Contents


South Korea



Hong Kong

The Key to successs: Legitimacy and Leadership




Up until recently (around the early 1960s ) South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong ( todays traditional “Asian Tigers”) along side with other emerging economies including : China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Malaysia ; were considered to be a part of the third world and often depicted in the lights of backward economics and underdevelopment . However since the 1997 Asian Financial crisis , a fast bounce back and an accelerated economic take off was noted in academia under the title of 'Asian Miracle'. The four Tigers alongside with the other emerging Asian economies have successfully managed to take off in a rare manner never witnessed before in terms of third world development. This paper will critically discuss whether there are lessons to be learnt from these Asian economies arguing that the main reason for their success is a strong political/state leadership alongside with some help in the shape of US aid. Furthermore, the argument will state that the political leadership of these Asian states have adopted long term development strategies with the use of these different tools : Education, technology, cheap Labor, natural resources, infant industries, trade, geography and the allocation of aid . Each of these areas will be explored and often highlighted when discussing the discussing each case study on its own. The paper will be divided in two main sections. The First will dive into the specific cases of the four traditional Asian Tigers: South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong . These cases will discuss the different stages of economic development these cases went through and how the tools mentioned above were utilized effectively in further enhancing the capacities of these economies. This section will also lead to identified common trends noted between these East Asian Miracles to provide a sustainable base for the argument through the similarities of the cases . The second section of this paper will examine the missing link and main key to success found within these East Asian cases that hasn’t been witnessed in other regions that have failed in their own adoptions of state lead growth, For example: the Soviet Union, Maoist China and North Korea . Further, answering why the cases provided especially , flourish with these state lead plans? This key to success will mainly come down to : legitimacy and leadership , emphasizing more on the general political vision , where the legitimacy is derived from to further strengthen the value and effectiveness of the sustainable state lead models administered.

South Korea

This current fully industrialized and highly technological member of the the G20 hasn’t always enjoyed this share of economic fortune . In fact after its independence from the Japanese rule in 1945 followed by a US military occupation and a conflict with the North otherwise known as the Korean War of 1950 , South Korea was left with most of its production facilities destroyed and its economic standing diminishing. The success of South Korea thus can be explained through three main economic stages that were lead through different governments but mainly peaked in Park's government (Chungil, 2005).

(1) A period of Import Substitution Industrialization :

Recovery from the Korean War was crucial as an initial take off in Rhee's era. In this period , economic growth as well as defense and security was highly dependent on US aid thus smart allocation of aid was crucial . " with an average of 15.9% of GNP coming from US aid (with a peak of 22.9% in 1957) , 64% of investment savings were US-owned, and Import Substitution Industrialization was adopted with 30% of aid going towards agricultural equipment "(Marshall , 2014) .

(2) The development of light industry:

With the Park Coup in 1961 and a much less reliance on the US for recovery ; South Koreas government started introducing cheap labor into the mix of its light industrial production through the adoption of the First Five-Year Economic Development Plan . The plan administered also included clear macro economic and development policies that not only emphasized on the creation of a 'guided capitalist' model in which the state will guide infant industries especially those of light productions into an accelerated export growth. But what is interesting about this model isn’t the amount of growth that was extracted within a short period of time ( as high as 10% in some years ) , rather the way the proceeds of this growth was invested in technological advancements in machinery that was required to grow into the next phase of overall sustainable development (Dongmyeon , 2003).

(3) the development of heavy and high tech industry :

The Park government set up a second Five-Year Plan that revolved around the progression from light industries to heavy chemical complexes . The heavy industries reached a point of carrying the South Korean economy and lasted as one of the longest developmental phases in Korean history . During this phase education was being massively targeted to produce highly skilled labor that will take on these heavy industries into a new level and opportunities for education al services were highly encouraged . This resulted in an overwhelming growth in industrial output and set the stage for South Koreas transition into the development of a high tech industry which it is very famous for since the 1990s. According to the World Bank the percentage of total high tech exports has increased almost by an entire percentile each year since 1988 (The World Databank , 2014). Thus it is highly noted that there is an incredibly large international demand for South Koreas technology and goods which has finally given its ' Asian Tiger ' status .


Excerpt out of 13 pages


The Asian Tigers. What makes them so successful?
The British University in Egypt
The Rise of Asia
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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396 KB
Asian Tigers, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, emerging economy, Asian Financial crisis, Asian Miracle, Asian economy
Quote paper
Omnaya Abouzaid (Author), 2016, The Asian Tigers. What makes them so successful?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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