Seoul wasn’t always the modern, gleaming capital we see around us today.
In just one lifetime South Korea transformed from an isolated hermit economy to a major global hub. In the 1950s Korea was torn apart by war. Seoul was one of the poorest cities in the world and relied on overseas aid. To rebuild, South Korea allowed large enterprises – called “chaebols” – to build business across industries. The likes of Samsung, Hyundai, and LG propelled the economy as they produced ships, cars, household products and consumer electronics. Manufacturing overtook agriculture as the country’s main source of income. The South Korean economy grew an astonishing 10 per cent per year for over thirty years – between 1962 and 1994. The “chaebols” continue to dominate the South Korean economy, with Samsung alone accounting for a quarter of the country’s GDP.