This book focuses on the United States's nation-building efforts in South Korea during the Cold War, especially in the period between 1945 and 1972. It examines how South Korea emerged as a wealthy democracy at the end of the twentieth century, even though the prospects for establishing stable, democratic institutions were initially bleak. The book considers how America approached the task of nation building in South Korea and how it helped the latter make a dramatic turnaround from being an indigent, despotic nation at the time of the Korean War. It argues that the agency of South Koreans complemented American nation building and that Korea's colonial past also played a role in U.S. efforts to transform its culture. The book suggests that the evolution of South Korea from autocracy to democracy, along with its success in achieving economic growth, became possible because the Koreans were able to adapt to American institutions and ideas, and tailor them to their own purposes.
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