You don't generally hear much about the 1997 Asian financial crisis in regular conversation in the US (or things broadly economic, save the price of houses or gas, perhaps) but I have been really struck how often people mention it here. Not just academics either.

The crisis was hugely significant for the whole country, of course, and many people periodize their lives by it.

(lots to read of course: you can read up a short, broad treatment of it here and in terms of "contagion" here)
and a critique of "the invisible hand of the American empire" here)


My students mention deciding on specific courses of study because of it, either because of the memory of it or because of the experience of it.

The feeling of economic power here as a result of the vibrant economy, and the justifiable pride in it, has an undercurrent of trepidation, no doubt because the collapse was so recent. It lends an edge in people's perception that is utterly foreign to Americans (aside from certain populations in perpetual or persistent crisis, of course).

(Though it will be interesting to observe things unfold as the dollar continues to tank and oil prices to rise.)

It is worth noting here (briefly) that the neoliberal reforms put into place, most notably the enhanced systems constructed by the IMF, have had profound impacts on Korea's relationship both to global capital and (where it differs) to the US, with continuing consequences and results.

It is now the 10 year anniversary of the crisis and attention is returning to the experience.

‘IMF Crisis’ Changes Korean Psyche(The Korea Times):

"Ten years ago this week, Korea sought an IMF bailout to save the troubled and insolvent economy in return for the implementation of some painful neo-liberal economic reform.

South Koreans have experienced drastic changes in their lives over the past 10 years since the financial crisis. Some of the changes, although harsh, were unavoidable.
Terms such as ``lifelong employment'' went with the wind, while ``self-development,'' ``personal asset management'' and ``education of children'' where everywhere heard.

The won-dollar exchange rate jumped to 2,000 from the pre-crisis 800. Double-dicial institutions, and made an unprecedented number of people jobless and homeless.

A decade later, statistics show Korea reemerging more efficient, stronger, transparent but polarized. In a decade, the GDP jumped 2.5 times to $887 billion last year. Korea became the world's fourth largest country in currency reserves. KOSPI entered the 2000-point era, compared with 280 in 1997.

But the question lingers, whether the past 10 years are a ``lost or regained decade.''

Shadow of Reforms

Despite positive statistical data and a globalized economy, what cannot be quantified is the sea change the Korean society has undergone.

Korea has become the world's 13th largest economy, but voices have risen over the deepening economic hardship amid the narrowing of the middle class. Socioeconomic polarization deepened. Household debts amounting to 699 trillion won have become another time bomb. Income distribution has worsened

The concept of lifetime employment is no longer a dominant goal, and many say one's personal life is more important than one's career.

A Cheil Communications survey showed nine out of 10 people do not consider they will stay in their current job for life.

People are now more interested in houses and education for their children than before.

``We must accept that added to the economic affects caused by the financial crisis are the serious social changes of the past 10 years which could, if not dealt with, accelerate the disintegration of the society,'' said Shin Kwang-young, a sociology professor at ChungAng University.

He drew attention to such crises as the low birthrate, the high divorce rate and the increasing suicide rate of recent years."

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