Cape Town - I am currently on a scientific visit in the Republic of Korea better known as South Korea, I am visiting a nuclear engineering department to learn more about the practical training techniques they employ to educate and train young nuclear professionals. In particular I am interested in their small zero power teaching reactor, but more about that on another day.
The topic of this opinion piece is something that surprised me, yet I should not be surprised. I have been using South Korea as an example of how a country can turn its own fortunes around. Yet, when I got here I could not believe my own example.
In 1957 South Korea was the second poorest country in the world. It has no natural resources apart from the Ginseng plant. Yet somehow, South Korea's economy was one of the world's fastest-growing from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, and South Korea is still one of the fastest-growing developed countries in the 2000s, along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the other three so-called Asian Tigers.
Today the country ranks as the 11th nominal and 13th purchasing power parity GDP in the world. South Koreans refer to this change as the Miracle on the Han River.
To answer this, we need to realise that the South Korean economy is heavily dependent on international trade, and in 2014, South Korea was the 5th largest exporter and 7th largest importer in the world.