This concluding chapter examines how South Korea was able to achieve a remarkable turnaround in the years after the Korean War, from being an economic basket case to an economic power and from being a state seemingly incapable of self-government to one with a vibrant democracy. In particular, it considers the role of the United States, through its Cold War strategy for nation building, in making this transformation possible. The chapter first looks at three critical periods—1945–1948, 1960–1961, and 1979–1980—when American actions helped autocrats assume power at the expense of governments or political leaders who enjoyed stronger popular support. It then explains how South Korea managed to make the transition from autocracy to democracy and achieve economic development along the way. The chapter suggests that by creating institutions and disseminating new ideas, the United States succeeded in remaking South Korea.
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