Korea is getting quite a bit of attention from the British press as of late.  In addition to the “correct understanding” that the Financial Times has exhibited recently, we have a few decently lengthed articles from the Economist.

In the Economist the first article is about Korea’s Chaebols or Zaibatsu-like industrial conglomerates.  The article mentions some good things about the chaebols and some not so good things.

South Korea’s remarkable resilience [during the global recession] is partly down to… [the] export prowess of those peculiar corporate beasts, called the chaebol.

… But from South Korea’s point of view, they are a narrow base on which to build a country’s economic future. First, they face competition in new forms for which their hierarchical management structures and complicated, dynastic ownership are ill suited. Apple’s iPhone and the ubiquitous BlackBerry crept up on Samsung Electronics, exposing its shortcoming in smart-phones.

The next Economist article is on Samsung and Lee Kun-hee’s return as chairman.  The magazine is openly skeptical of Lee’s main justification for returning, which is claiming that the company is in some sort of imminent crisis.  The Economist says, “what crisis?”  Samsung is seemingly kicking ass everywhere.  The article speculates that the whole episode probably tells us more about Korean society and the chaebol’s continuing close relationship with government than anything else.

This brings us to our Financial Times article which outlines the sometimes inconsistently paranoid and skitzophrenic behavior of the Korean government:

When South Koreans flocked to see The Host – the 2006 hit film, ostensibly about a killer monster terrorising the banks of the river Han in Seoul, – part of the appeal came from a more tangible fear.

The story’s real villain is the heavy-handed South Korean state itself…


The sinister state in the film is a pastiche and real South Korea has made huge strides since military dictatorship ended. However, its 22-year-old democracy still struggles to build trust between the government and the people. The past few days have been a perfect example.