by Dr. Denise R. Ames
How could they do it? That is what I and others wondered as our group of educators toured the POSCO Steel Plant in Gwangyang, South Korea. I was on an educational tour of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), sponsored by the Academy of Korean Studies and the Freeman Foundation, and we were experiencing first-hand what the world called the Korean Economic Miracle.
POSCO is an enormous plant, dredged from the swampy lowlands next to the East Asia Sea and forged into a first-rate facility, shipping enough steel to world-wide customers to make it the 4th largest steel company in the world. In promotional videos we viewed at the Visitors’ Center, they announced that they had “reclaimed the promised land” and “POSCO is creating the tomorrow of the world.” After viewing the facilities, they have reason to be proud.
POSCO is a recent project, especially compared to the U.S. steel companies that date back to the 1800s. POSCO was born in 1968, and its father was the visionary, but autocratic, President Park-Chung-hee. He concluded that self-sufficiency in steel was essential to economic development. It was a government run project, in which his administration arranged financing from Japan and the U.S.
POSCO CEO Park Tae-joon was quoted as saying, “You can import coal and machines, but you cannot import talent.” He realized that Korea needed a pool of well-educated youth who were proficient in science and technology to ensure that Korea would be a leader in high technology. Park founded, with government support, the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in 1986, and it remains a top university in its field today.
The U.S. and global institutions, such as the World Bank, pressured South Korea to privatize POSCO, and gradually full privatization was realized in 2000. The company has since expanded its operations to countries such as India, China, Indonesia, Cameroon (Africa), Mexico, and Vietnam. With 30,000 employees earning good wages, POSCO symbolizes South Korea’s economic success and long-term planning.
POSCO represents what has economically happened in Korea. Whether it is Hyundai, Samsung, or many other lesser known companies, there has been remarkable economic growth as a result of a close connection between government and industry and careful strategic planning to achieve impressive results. For example, China and Korea dominate shipbuilding today.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for CGA.
The Center for Global Awareness has three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; GATHER, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program GATE, Global Awareness for Travelers. GATE is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world.
Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.