Nineteen years ago, South Korea came precipitously close to bankruptcy.
The Asian financial crisis had spread like a virus. Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries were all affected, inciting fears of a global economic meltdown if the crisis couldn’t be contained.
Before 1997, South Korea had been held up as a textbook example of economic reversal and resilience.
Once a poor Japanese colony, the country underwent an unbelievably rapid transformation in the second half of the 20th century, propelled by smart policy reforms and heavy investment in education. Many called it the “Miracle on the Han River.” By the end of the century, Korea had grown to become the world’s 11th largest economy. Residents had the incomes to enjoy comfortable, “Western” lifestyles.