I am StrateGigi, an Assistant Professor of Strategy. I recently visited my parents-in-law in South Korea. Today I will share my thoughts on what The Economist's correspondent Daniel Tudor, in his book on South Korea, calls "The Impossible Country."
The appellative “Impossible Country” derives from an anecdote in the book, when the advisor of South Korea’s third president describes his nation in the 60s as "the poorest, most impossible country on the planet." Yet, South Korea metamorphosed itself into a wealthy nation in just a few decades thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of its people. South Korea lacked natural resources, but it was rich in culture and human capital. According to Tudor, South Korea is “impossible” for other reasons too. It is a country which has set for itself unachievable standards of modernity and where the quality of life might be low because people work strenuously despite having escaped poverty.
While that may be true, I see South Korea quite differently. In my travels, I have rarely seen a place where human bonds, conviviality, and the love for one’s family matter as much. To some extent, South Korea reminds me of my own country, Italy. Like Italians, Koreans are loud and passionate. Like Italians, Koreans love their children and smother them with attention. In my own view, South Korea is not so impossible. After all, how can a country that resembles Italy this much be impossible?