This education is likely one of the most crucial reasons for South Korea's economic transformation in the past three decades -- it has created a highly productive, relatively cheap force of workers that is highly competitive in the global economy that has emerged in recent times. The benefits accruing from this factor include the attraction of foreign investment, which the country sorely needed in the 1960s when it lacked domestic capital and savings. Also, such an efficient work force helps make exports attractive, which enabled South Korea to exploit foreign markets like the U.S., because South Korean markets were still poor three decades ago. Thus, South Korea's economic policies provide a textbook case for the Third World on how to achieve economic 'takeoff' out of the poverty of underdevelopment.
In the aftermath of the Korean war of 1950-1953, the South Korean economy lay in ruins (Amsden, 1989). Dependent to a great extent on aid from the U.S., the country's government set about to rebuild and create a viable economy largely on the Japanese model. Japan had ruled Korea (including the North) in the first half of this century, and its influence lingered after independence in 1945. Japan was building up its light industry with such goods as textiles and toys, after World War II while under American occupation, and expo