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Paths To Modernisation | Class 11 History

The chapter Introduces students to the era of Chinese dominance in the East-Asian region. The chapter also talks about the role of Japanese power and its influence. We also highlight the challenges faced by the Chinese in redefining their tradition along with the Russo-Japanese war.



Historically, Asia's east was controlled by China in the 1800s. At the height of the Qing dynasty, Japan seemed to be cut off from the rest of the world. However, China's Imperial government only gained the ability to confront the colonial challenge around the end of the 20th century.

For the island nation, having modernised its fleet has been an overall success. the creation of an industrial economy occurred when Taiwan and Korea were annexed by the colonial empire (in 1895). (1910).

The first of these came in 1894 when Japan defeated China. The second of these came in 1905 when Japan defeated the Soviet Union (The Russo-Japanese war).

In response to the tumult, the Chinese had to rebuild their national strength and shed Western and Japanese influence while simultaneously redefining their cultural traditions.

The Chinese had to go through a revolution to rebuild their country.

As a result of the civil war in China in 1949, the "Chinese Communist Party" came to an end. They thought this system was keeping China from growing economically.

Many economic reforms, some of which brought capitalism and the free market back to the country, were nonetheless implemented by the Communist Party during its political control. Japan's imperial ambitions caused it to be defeated in World War II, which led to its unconditional surrender.

Following the United States' World War II occupation of Japan, the country's democracy was firmly established, and the economy was rebuilt to become a major global economic power by the 1970s.

Japan was able to modernise by adopting capitalist principles during a period dominated by Western colonialism. For Japan's expansion to be acceptable, the call to resist Western dominance and liberate Asia justified it.

A powerful expression of tradition, commitment to learning, and a deep love of the country are clearly visible in the dramatic rise of Japan's institutions and society over the past two decades.

What are the sources to understand the historical writings of China and Japan?

In China and Japan, the long history of the rulers can be found in historical documents. The rulers established official departments to keep records and write dynastic histories based on the past.

It is believed that Sima Qian lived from 145 to 90 BCE and is the greatest historian of ancient China.

As a result of the Chinese cultural influence in Japan, history is given the same importance as it is in China.

So, when it came time to document the Meiji Restoration, the Meiji government set up a bureau in 1869.

The written word was held in high regard, and literary talent was highly regarded. Since then, there have been many different written materials available, including official history books as well as academic articles as well as popular literature, religious tracts, and so on

Before modernity, printing and publishing were important industries. Modern scholars repurposed these materials in new and innovative ways.

The physical differences between China and Japan are difficult to define. China is a vast, mountainous country with a wide variety of climates and geographies. Major river systems include:

● Chang Jiang (Yellow River)

● Yangtse River

● 'Pearl River'

Hanseatic is the dominant ethnic group and Chinese is the most widely spoken language (Putonghua). Aside from dialects such as Cantonese (Yue) and Shanghainese (Wu), other minority languages are spoken, including Uighur, Hui, Manchu, and Tibetan.

Regional Diversity

Four distinct types of Chinese cuisine reflect this regional diversity.

Cantonese cuisine, also called southern cuisine, is the most well-known and includes dim sum, a variety of pastries and dumplings.

Grains are the mainstay of the northern Chinese diet. Spices brought to China by Buddhist monks along the Silk Road and chillies by Portuguese traders in the 15th century have shaped Szechuan's fiery cuisine.

East China is rice and wheat-eating region.

Honshu (Honshu), Kyushu (Kyushu), Shikoku and Hokkaido (Hokkaido) are the four largest islands in Japan.

As the southernmost of the islands, the Okinawa chain is located at a similar latitude to the Bahamas. Most of the main islands are mountainous, and Japan is located in a seismically active area. Architecture has been influenced by these geographical conditions.

When Korea was Japan's colony in Asia, the Japanese were forced to bring in a small Ainu minority and some Koreans.

The History Of Japan

The Political System

In Japan, the emperor appointed shoguns, military dictators. The shoguns were de facto rulers of Japan until the emperor lost power in the 12th century. From 1603 to 1867, the Tokugawa family was the shogun.

The country was divided into 250 domains ruled by daimyo lords.

The shogun ruled over the domain lords, ordering them to stay in Edo (modern Tokyo) for long periods.

The samurai (warrior class) served the shoguns and daimyo.

Three developments in the late sixteenth century shaped future growth:

● Assemblies were disarmed and the only samurai could wield swords. This brought peace and ended the century's frequent wars.

● The daimyo had to live in their domain capitals, which had a lot of autonomy.

● Third, land surveys identified owners and taxpayers while grading land productivity.

By the mid-18th century, Japan had the world's most populous city, two other large cities – Osaka and Kyoto, and at least half a dozen castle-towns with populations of over 50,000. Unlike most of Europe, which had only one large city.

Thus, financial and credit systems were born. In the towns, a burgeoning merchant class supported the arts and theatre. People enjoyed reading, so the writers became self-sufficient. A book could be ‘rented' in Edo for a bowl of noodles.

Japan was wealthy because it imported luxury goods from China and India. The Tokugawa imposed export restrictions on precious metals due to the strain on the economy.

Imports were reduced and the silk industry was developed. This made Nishijin a top silk producer. Nishijin silk became the world's best.

The increased use of money and the creation of a rice stock market show that the economy was evolving.

Social and Intellectual Changes

People questioned the degree of Chinese influence and argued that the essence of being Japanese could be found long before contact with China. Early classics like the "Tale of the Genji" and origin myths said the gods created the islands and the emperor was a descendant of the Sun Goddess.

The Meiji Restoration

With the growing demand for diplomatic trade and relations, the USA demanded to sign a treaty that would permit trade and open diplomatic relations with Japan in 1853.

Commodore Matthew Perry (1794- 1858) was the US representative to Japan. Japan lay on the route to China which the USA saw as a major market; also, their whaling ships in the Pacific needed a place to refuel.

Holland was the only western country that traded with Japan.

Meiji Era (1868-1912)

An uprising forced the shogun from power in 1868, bringing the Emperor to Edo. A former capital named Edo has been renamed to Tokyo, meaning 'capital of the east'

There was a growing awareness among officials and the public that some European countries were establishing colonial empires in India and other parts of the globe.

The British had defeated China, and there was a real fear that Japan would become a colony.

People in Europe wanted to learn from new ideas, rather than ignore them, as the Chinese did. Others wanted to exclude the Europeans, even though they were ready for the new technologies they offered.

In some cases, the "opening" to the outside world should be gradual and limited in scope.

What were the Meiji reforms?

‘Fukuoka kyohei' was the government's policy (rich country, strong army). They realised they had to develop their economy and army or risk being subjugated like India.

The new regime worked to establish the ‘emperor system'. Officials were sent to study European monarchies for inspiration. The Emperor was revered as a direct descendant of the Sun Goddess, but also as the leader of westernisation.

People were urged in the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education to pursue education, advance the public good, and promote common interests.

In the 1870s, the construction of a new school system began. By 1910, schooling was mandatory for both boys and girls. The cost of tuition was minimal.

Since 1870, the curriculum was based on Western models, with a focus on modern ideas and the study of Japanese history.

Oversight of curriculum and textbook selection, as well as teacher training, fell to the education ministry.

As part of the curriculum, children were taught to respect their parents, be loyal towards their country, and become good citizens.

A new administrative structure was imposed by the Meiji government in order to integrate the nation by redrawing old village and domain boundaries.

To maintain local schools and health facilities, as well as serve as a military recruitment centre, the administrative unit had to generate enough revenue to meet its financial obligations to the community.

All men over the age of twenty were required to serve in the military. Armed forces have become more advanced. Politicians had to register as political groups, hold meetings under strict censorship rules, etc. A legal system had to be put in place for these purposes.

All of these measures were met with opposition from the public. During the reign of the emperor, he placed the military and bureaucracy under his direct control. They were thus excluded from government control even after the constitution was passed.

All of these measures were met with opposition from the opposition.

The tension between a democratic constitution and a modern army would have far-reaching consequences.

The army pushed for a more aggressive foreign policy in order to gain more land. Thus, Japan was victorious in wars with China and Russia. In many cases, the government's aggressive policies were in direct opposition to the public's desire for greater democracy.

While Japan's economy grew, it also acquired a colonial empire that suppressed democracy at home and put it at odds with the people it colonised.

Modernising The Economy

Another important aspect of the Meiji reforms was the modernization of the economy. An agricultural tax was used to raise the majority of the funds.

● In 1870-72, the first railway line between Tokyo and the port of Yokohama was built.

● Textile machinery was imported from Europe, and workers were trained by foreign technicians.

● Japanese students were sent to teach in universities and schools all over the world.

Modern banking institutions were established in 1872, and companies such as Mitsubishi and Sumitomo were aided in becoming major shipbuilders through subsidies and tax breaks, ensuring that Japanese trade was carried on Japanese ships from then on.

Until after WWII, the economy was dominated by Zaibatsu (large business organisations controlled by individual families). The population grew from 35 million in 1872 to 55 million in 1920.

To relieve population pressure, the government actively encouraged migration, first to the northern island of Hokkaido, which had been a largely autonomous area where the indigenous people known as the Ainu lived, and then to Hawaii and Brazil, as well as to Japan's expanding colonial empire.

As the industry developed in Japan, there was a shift to towns.

By 1925, cities were home to 21% of the population; by 1935, this figure had risen to 32%. (22.5 million).

Industrial Workers

Manufacturing employment increased from 700,000 in 1870 to 4 million in 1913, a 50% increase.

They mostly worked in small groups of less than five people without access to machines or electricity.

Women made up more than half of the workforce in modern factories. Women also organised the first modern strike in 1886. In the United States, however, male employees began to outnumber female employees in the 1930s.

In 1909, factories employed over a hundred people, over 1,000 in 1920, over 2,000 in the 1930s, and over 4,000 in 1940.

This helped the family-centred ideology survive, just as a strong patriarchal system under an emperor who functioned as a family patriarch helped nationalism survive.

The uncontrolled expansion of industry and the demand for natural resources like timber exacerbated environmental degradation.

An 800-strong demonstration forced the government to act when Tanaka Shozo organised the first anti-pollution campaign after being elected to the first House of Representatives in 1897.

Why is the term 'Aggressive Nationalism' used?

The Meiji constitution established a Diet with limited powers and a limited franchise. German legal ideas influenced the Japanese as well.

The leaders who oversaw the restoration of the imperial monarchy continued to wield power and formed political parties.

Cabinets were also formed by prime ministers who were elected by the people. Following that, they were deposed by national unity cabinets, which were formed across party lines.

The emperor was in charge of the forces, and from 1890 onwards, this was interpreted to mean that the army and navy were in charge of themselves.

Only serving generals and admirals were allowed to become ministers after the prime minister issued an order in 1899.

The fear of being at the mercy of Western powers prompted Japan to strengthen its military in tandem with the expansion of its colonial empire.

This fear was used to silence critics of military expansion and increased taxes to fund the military.

‘Westernisation’ & ‘Tradition’

A Road towards a Constitution

Japan's intellectuals aspired to the USA and Western European countries as the pinnacle of civilization. Meiji intellectual Fukuzawa Yukichi wished to ‘expel Asia'. (Japan must shed its Asian traits and join the West.)

The next generation questioned this total acceptance of western ideas and urged a return to indigenous values.

In the interests of global civilization, Miyake Setsurei (1860-1945) argued that each nation must develop its own talents.

Ueki Emori (1857-1892), a leader of the Popular Rights Movement, advocated for a liberal education that would develop each individual.

Some argued for women's voting rights. The government finally announced a constitution.

Daily Life

Japan’s transformation into a modern society can be seen also in the changes in everyday life.

● The patriarchal household system comprised many generations living together under the control of the head of the house. Many people became affluent and the new ideas of the family spread.

● The wife and Husband lived as the homemaker and the breadwinner of the family.

● This was the all-new concept of domesticity which in turn generated new demands for goods, entertainment, also a new form of housing.

In 1920, cheap housing was also available on a down payment of 200 yen with a monthly instalment of 12 yen for 10 years. In this regard, some conditions were to be applied, a person must be with higher education and must be earning 40 yen per month.

‘Overcoming Modernity

During the 1930s and 1940s, Japan was preparing to expand its empire in China and Asia. A war that merged into WWII after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.

During this time period, dissidents were repressed and imprisoned, and patriotic societies, many of them women's groups, were formed to support the war.

In 1943, a conference on ‘Overcoming Modernity' debated how Japan could fight the West while being modern.

After Defeat: Re-emerging as a Global Economic Power

Japan's attempt to establish a colonial empire was defeated by the Allies. To end the war, bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan demilitarised and adopted a new constitution during the US-led Occupation (1945-47). In this new constitution, the use of war as a tool of state policy was forbidden. And ‘agrarian reforms'.

There was also an attempt to dismantle the zaibatsu, or large monopoly houses, that dominated the Japanese economy. In 1946, the first post-war elections were held, with women voting for the first time.

The rapid recovery of Japan's economy after WWII was dubbed a "miracle." However, popular struggles and intellectual debates about how to broaden political participation had long been a tradition in Japan.

Consolidating pre-war social cohesion allowed close collaboration between government, bureaucracy and industry. Affluence from the Korean and Vietnamese wars also aided the Japanese economy.

Tokyo 1964 was a symbolic coming of age. The Japanese ability to use advanced technologies to produce better and cheaper goods was demonstrated in 1964 by the introduction of high-speed Shinkansen or bullet trains.

In the 1960s, civil society movements grew as industrialisation was pushed without regard for health or the environment.

Many diseases took over, such as cadmium poisoning, a painful disease, followed by mercury poisoning in Minamata in the 1960s and air pollution issues in the early 1970s.

Grassroots pressure groups demanded recognition and compensation for victims. Government action and new laws helped. Since the mid-1980s, interest in environmental issues has waned as Japan enacted some of the world's strictest environmental regulations.

As a developed nation, it must now use its political and technological capabilities to maintain its global leadership.

The Modern History of China

In 1903, the thinker Liang Qichao believed that only by recognising China as a nation could it resist the West. He accused Indians of oppressing their own people and serving the British.

Confucianism, based on Confucius' (551-479 BCE) teachings, stressed morality, practical wisdom, and proper social relationships.

It shaped Chinese culture, set social norms, and shaped political theories and institutions.

A major impediment to new ideas and institutions. Students were sent to Japan, Britain, and France to learn new ideas.

Japan drew a lot of Chinese students in 1890 Some of them became leaders in the Republican Party.

Because they shared an ideographic script, the Chinese borrowed Japanese translations of European words like justice, rights, and revolution.

It was abolished after the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Establishing the Republic

The Manchu empire was overthrown and a republic was established in 1911 under Sun Yat-sen(1866-1925), the unanimous founder of modern China.

He came from a poor family and studied in missionary schools where he was introduced to democracy and Christianity. He studied medicine but was greatly concerned about the fate of China.

His programme was called the Three Principles (San min Chui).

● Nationalism- this meant overthrowing the Manchu who was seen as a foreign dynasty, as well as other foreign imperialists.

● Democracy or establishing a democratic government.

● Socialism: Regulating capital and equalising landholdings.

The social and political situation continued to be unstable. On 4 May 1919, an angry demonstration was held in Beijing to protest against the decisions of the post-war peace conference.

Despite being an ally of the victorious side led by Britain, China did not get back the territories seized from it. The protest became a movement.

● It galvanised a whole generation to attack tradition and to call for saving China through modern science, democracy and nationalism.

● Revolutionaries called for driving out the foreigners, who were controlling the country’s resources, to remove inequalities and reduce poverty.

They advocated reforms such as the use of simple language in writing, abolishing the practise of foot-binding and the subordination of women, equality in marriage, and economic development to end poverty. After the republican revolution, the country entered a period of turmoil.

The Guomindang (the National People’s Party) and the CCP emerged as major forces striving to unite the country and bring stability. Sun Yat-sen’s ideas became the basis of the political philosophy of the Guomindang. They identified the ‘four great needs’ as clothing, food, housing and transportation.

After the death of Sun, Chiang Kaishek (1887-1975) emerged as the leader of the Guomindang as he launched a military campaign to control the ‘warlords’, regional leaders who had usurped authority and to eliminate the communists.

● He advocated a secular and rational ‘this-worldly’ Confucianism but also sought to militarise the nation.

● He said the people must develop a ‘habit and instinct for unified behaviour’.

● He encouraged women to cultivate the four virtues of ‘chastity, appearance, speech and work’ and recognise their role as confined to the household.

● The length of hemlines was also prescribed.

Industrial Growth

The Guomindang’s social base was in urban areas. Industrial growth was slow and limited. Shanghai, became the centre of modern growth, by 1919 an industrial working class had appeared numbering 500,000.

Only a small percentage of the population was employed in modern industries such as shipbuilding. Most were ‘petty urbanites’ (xiao Shimin), traders and shopkeepers.

Urban workers, particularly women, earned very low wages. Working hours were long and conditions of work were bad. As individualism increased, there was a growing concern with women’s rights, ways to build the family and discussions about love and romance.

Social and cultural change was helped along by the spread of schools and universities (Peking University was established in 1902).


Journalism flourished reflecting the growing attraction of this new thinking. The popular Life Weekly, edited by Zao Taofen (1895-1944), is representative of this new trend. It introduced readers to new ideas, as well as to leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Kemal Ataturk, the modernist leader of Turkey.

Its circulation increased rapidly from just 2,000 in 1926 to a massive 200,000 copies in 1933.

The Guomindang despite its attempts to unite the country failed because of its narrow social base and limited political vision.

In Sun Yat-sen’s programme; regulating capital and equalising land was never carried out because the party ignored the peasantry and the rising social inequalities.

It sought to impose military order rather than address the problems faced by the people.

The Rise of the Communist Party Of China

A Japanese invasion in 1937 drove the Guomindang back. The war had worn China down. Between 1945 and 1949, prices rose 30% per month, destroying ordinary people's lives.

Rural China faced two crises: ecological (soil exhaustion, deforestation, and flooding) and socioeconomic (exploitation of land, debt, primitive technology, and poor communications).

It was founded in 1921, shortly after the Russian Revolution.

In March 1918, Lenin and Trotsky founded the Comintern, or Third International, to help establish a world government that would end exploitation. However, the Comintern and the USSR remained committed to Marx's view that revolution would come from the urban working class.

With initial international appeal, it became a tool for Soviet interests and was disbanded in 1943. Mao Zedong (1893-1976), a major CCP leader, focused his revolutionary programme on the peasants.

As a result of his success, the CCP defeated Guomindang. During the Guomindang attacks in Jiangxi, Mao Zedong's revolutionary approach was demonstrated by mountain camps.

It was formed by land confiscation and redistribution. Mao stressed the need for a separate government and army. He became aware of women's issues and enacted new marriage laws prohibiting arranged marriages, prohibiting the sale of marriage contracts, and simplifying divorce.

The Guomindang blockade forced the Communists to seek a new base. In 1934-35, they set out on the arduous 6,000-mile Long March to Shanxi. Their new base in Yanan allowed them to continue their fight against warlordism, land reform, and foreign imperialism.

This gave them a strong social base. After the war, the Communists took power and the Guomindang was defeated.

Establishing the New Democracy

The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. A new democracy based on all social classes, unlike the Soviet-style dictatorship of the proletariat.

The state took over key economic sectors, and private enterprise and land ownership were gradually phased out. This programme lasted until 1953 when the government announced a socialist transformation programme.

The Great Leap Forward movement, launched in 1958, aimed to speed up China's industrialization. Backyard steel furnaces were encouraged. On began to form rural people's communes (collective ownership and cultivation of land).

By 1958, 26,000 communes accounted for 98% of the farm population. Mao was able to mobilise the masses to achieve Party goals. Fatherland, people, labour, science, and public property were his five loves. Mass organisations for farmers, women, students, etc.

China Democratic Women's Federation 76 million members, 3.29 million students' Federation.

Not everyone in the Party liked these goals and methods.

Liu Shao-chi (1896-1969) and Deng Xiaoping (1904-97) tried to improve the commune system. It was unsuitable for industrial use.

Conflicting Visions: 1965-78

To counter his critics, Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1965.

The Red Guards, mostly students and soldiers, were used to fight old culture, customs, and habits. In the countryside, students and professionals were sent to learn. Ideology (communism) trumped professional knowledge. Denunciations and slogans replaced reason.

The Cultural Revolution weakened the Party and disrupted the economy and education.

In 1975, the Party emphasised social discipline and the need to industrialise China to become a superpower by the end of the century.

What were the Reforms made in 1978?

After the Cultural Revolution, there was political manoeuvring. Party control was strong during Deng's socialist market economy.

The Four Modernisations were the Party's goal in 1978. (to develop science, industry, agriculture, defence). ‘The Fifth Modernisation' wall-poster declared on December 5, 1978, that other modernisations would fail without Democracy.

It went on to criticise the CCP for not addressing poverty and ending sexual exploitation, citing internal Party cases of abuse. However, on the seventieth anniversary of the May Fourth movement, many intellectuals called for greater openness and an end to ‘ossified dogmas' (so shaozhi).

Beijing student protesters were brutally repressed. This was strongly condemned globally. Post-reform debates on how to develop China have emerged. The Party's dominant view is based on strong political control, economic liberalisation, and globalisation.

Critics claim growing inequalities between social groups, regions, and men and women are causing social tensions, and question the market's dominance.

Finally, there is a resurgence of Confucianism and arguments that China can build a modern society without simply copying the West.

The Story of Taiwan

Chiang Kai-shek, defeated by the CCP fled in 1949 to Taiwan with over US$300 million in gold reserves and crates of priceless art treasures and established the Republic of China. Taiwan had been a Japanese colony since the Chinese ceded it after the 1894- 95 war with Japan. The Cairo Declaration (1943) and the Potsdam Proclamation (1949) restored sovereignty to China.

Massive demonstrations in February 1947 had led the GMD to brutally kill a whole generation of leading figures. The GMD, under Chiang Kai-shek went on to establish a repressive government forbidding free speech and political opposition and excluding the local population from positions of power. However, they carried out land reforms that increased agricultural productivity and modernised the economy so that by 1973 Taiwan had a GNP second only to that of Japan in Asia. The economy, largely dependent on trade has been steadily growing, but what is important is that the gap between the rich and poor has been steadily declining.

Even more dramatic has been the transformation of Taiwan into a democracy. It began slowly after the death of Chiang in 1975 and grew in momentum when martial law was lifted in 1987 and opposition parties were legally permitted. The first free elections began the process of bringing local Taiwanese to power. Diplomatically most countries have only trade missions in Taiwan.

Full diplomatic relations and embassies are not possible as Taiwan is considered to be part of China.

The question of re-unification with the mainland remains a contentious issue but “Cross Strait” relations (that is between Taiwan and China) have been improving and Taiwanese trade and investments in the mainland are massive and travel has also become easier. China may be willing to tolerate a semi-autonomous Taiwan as long as it gives up any move to seek independence.

The Story of Korea

During the late 19th century, Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) faced a range of internal political and social issues, including corruption, factionalism, and economic decline. At the same time, the dynasty faced increasing foreign pressure from China, Japan, and the West, as these powers sought to extend their influence in the region. In response to these challenges, the Korean government implemented a series of modernisation reforms, including the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, the development of infrastructure and industry, and the improvement of diplomatic relations with other countries.

Despite these efforts, the Joseon Dynasty came to an end in 1910 when the imperial Japanese annexed Korea as a colony. The annexation marked the end of the dynasty's 500-year rule and sparked widespread anger among the Korean people, who resented the suppression of their culture and the forced assimilation into Japanese society. As a result, many Koreans began to demonstrate against colonial rule and demand independence. They set up a provisional government and sent delegations to appeal to foreign leaders at international meetings, including the Cairo, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences.

The Japanese colonial rule in Korea came to an end in August 1945 with Japan's defeat in World War II. However, it was the continued efforts of independence activists both inside and outside of Korea that ensured the country's independence after Japan's defeat. These activists worked to disseminate information about the Korean struggle for independence and to build international support for their cause.

Following Japan's surrender, the Korean Peninsula was temporarily divided along the 38th parallel, with the Soviet Union managing the North and the United Nations managing the South. The two sides worked together to disband the Japanese forces in the region and establish new governments. However, this division became permanent as separate governments were established in the North and South in 1948.

Post War

The Korean War broke out in June 1950 and was a conflict between North Korea, which received support from communist China, and South Korea, which received support from the United States and other United Nations forces. The war developed into a proxy conflict of the Cold War and lasted for three years, ending in an armistice agreement in July 1953. The Korean War resulted in significant losses of life and property and delayed South Korea's economic development and democratisation. Inflation caused by increased national expenses and war-related currency issuance led to rising prices, and industrial facilities built during the colonial period were destroyed. As a result, South Korea was forced to rely on economic assistance from the United States.

In 1948, South Korea held its first democratic elections, and Syngman Rhee was elected as the country's first president. However, Rhee extended his administration through illegal constitutional amendments and faced widespread protests in 1960 over a rigged election, leading to his resignation in what became known as the April Revolution. The spirit of the people, which had been suppressed under Rhee's administration, erupted in the form of demonstrations and demands for reform. However, the Democratic Party administration that took power after Rhee's resignation was unable to properly address these demands due to internal divisions and conflict. Instead, reformist political powers emerged, and the student movement grew into a unification movement. This was not welcomed by the military authorities, and in May 1961, the Democratic Party government was overthrown in a military coup led by General Park Chung-hee and other military officials.

The Rapid Industrialisation

In October 1963, an election was held in South Korea, and military coup leader Park Chung-hee was elected as the country's president. The Park administration implemented a state-led, export-oriented policy to achieve economic growth, favouring large corporate firms and focusing on expanding employment and increasing Korea's competitiveness. This policy shift, which occurred in the early 1960s, marked the beginning of South Korea's unprecedented rate of economic growth, as the country moved away from import substitution industrialisation (ISI) and towards a focus on exports.

Under this export-oriented policy, the government supported labour-intensive light industrial products, such as textiles and garments, in which Korea had a comparative advantage. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the focus shifted from light industries to value-added heavy and chemical industries, with steel, non-ferrous metals, machinery, shipbuilding, electronics, and chemical production being identified as key industries for economic growth. In 1970, the New Village (Saemaul) Movement was introduced to encourage and mobilise the rural population and modernise the agricultural sector. This campaign aimed to reform the spirit of the people from a passive and disheartened state to an active and hopeful one, empowering rural people to develop their villages and improve their living conditions.

South Korea's economic growth was driven by a combination of strong leaders, well-trained bureaucrats, aggressive industrialists, and a capable labour force. Ambitious entrepreneurs responded well to government incentives to increase exports and develop new industries, and the country's high level of education contributed to its economic growth. At the beginning of Korea's industrialisation, almost all Korean workers were literate and able to easily acquire new skills, while the country's open economic policy allowed it to absorb advanced institutions and technologies from other countries. Foreign investment and South Korea's high domestic savings rate helped to develop the heavy

Economic growth and Democratisation

After the death of Park Chung-hee in 1979, the desire for democratisation grew in South Korea. However, in December of that year, another military coup was staged, led by Chun Doo-hwan. In response, students and citizens in various cities across the country held protests in May 1980, demanding democracy in the face of Chun's military faction. The military suppressed these demonstrations by implementing martial law across the country. In the city of Gwangju, students and citizens in particular did not back down and continued to demand the end of martial law, leading to what is known as the Gwangju Democratisation Movement. However, Chun's military faction suppressed these protests. Later that year, Chun became president through an indirect election under the Yusin Constitution.

The Chun administration worked to suppress democratisation influences in order to stabilise the regime. However, thanks in part to an international economic boom, the Chun administration was able to increase economic growth from 1.7% in 1980 to 13.2% by 1983, while also significantly lowering inflation. This economic development led to urbanisation, improved education levels, and advancements in media, increasing citizens' awareness of their political rights and leading to demands for a constitutional amendment to allow direct elections for the president.

In May 1987, the Chun administration's suppression of inquiries into the death-by-torture of a university student was revealed, leading to widespread participation in a large-scale struggle for democratisation, known as the June Democracy Movement, which included not only students but also the middle class. As a result, the Chun administration was forced to revise the constitution to allow for direct elections, marking a new chapter in Korean democracy.

Korean Democracy and IMF Crisis

After decades of military rule in South Korea, the country held its first direct presidential election in December 1987. However, due to the opposition parties' failure to unite, a fellow military leader of Chun's military faction, Roh Tae-woo, was elected. Despite this, South Korea continued on its path towards democracy. In 1990, long-time opposition leader Kim Young-sam formed a large ruling party by compromising with Roh's party. In December 1992, Kim, a civilian, was elected president, marking the end of authoritarian military rule in the country.

Under the export-driven policy of the new administration, several companies in South Korea grew to global prominence. The government supported the growth of Korean conglomerates by investing in capital-intensive heavy and chemical industries, as well as electronic industries, while also focusing on building industrial and social infrastructure.

However, in the 1990s, South Korea faced increasing pressure from neoliberal forces to open its market. In response, the Kim administration joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1996 and sought to strengthen the country's international competitiveness. Despite these efforts, South Korea experienced a foreign currency crisis in 1997 due to increasing trade deficits, poor management by financial institutions, and reckless business practices by conglomerates. The crisis was addressed with emergency financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and efforts to improve the country's economic constitution, including the Gold Collection Movement in which citizens actively contributed to the repayment of foreign loans.

In December 1997, long-time opposition party leader Kim Dae-jung was elected president for the first time, marking a peaceful transfer of power. This was followed by a second peaceful transfer of power in 2008, when conservative Lee Myung-bak was elected as president after the progressive Roh Mu-hyun administration. In 2012, conservative Park Geun-hye was elected as the first female president in South Korea, initially gaining support due to the political legacy of her father, Park Chung-hee. However, in October 2016, Park faced nationwide protests after it was revealed that she had allowed a friend to secretly manage government affairs. This led to her impeachment and removal from office in March 2017, and the election of Moon Jae-in as president in May 2017 marked a third peaceful transfer of power in South Korea.

Candelight Protest

The 2016 candlelight protests, in which citizens peacefully and legally called for the resignation of the president, demonstrate the maturity of Korean democracy. While economic development has contributed to the growth of democracy in Korea, it is the increased political awareness and push for republicanism among citizens that has truly propelled the country's democracy forward.

Paths Toward Modernisation

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea all underwent modernisation processes as they sought to become independent and modern nations. These processes were influenced by both indigenous traditions and foreign ideas and practices, and resulted in a range of outcomes. Japan's modernisation was led by its elite and resulted in aggressive nationalism and the establishment of a colonial empire, but also led to the development of a highly centralised and modernised state. China's modernisation was hindered by foreign imperialism and internal political and social instability, and the Communist Party's efforts to modernise the country were successful in terms of economic development but led to a repressive political system. Taiwan and Korea also underwent modernisation processes, with Taiwan's being led by an authoritarian government and Korea's being marked by political instability and economic development. These histories show the diversity of paths to modernisation and the complexity of the process.


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