Capitalism Makes People Taller

FEE – The spring sun shone and cherry blossoms fluttered down to the delight of locals as I sauntered through Namsan Park last weekend, a beautifully-kept oasis atop a mountain in Seoul. Beneath me lay the glistening skyscrapers of one of the world’s most remarkable cities: fashionable, frenetic, and constantly evolving. This is the sprawling home to 24 million people, half of all South Koreans, and is the most obvious sign of the country’s astonishing progress.

For this is the Miracle on the Han River. After the Korean War, a three-year tussle between capitalism and communism ending in a stalemate, the South was left shattered with income per head on par with the poorest parts of Africa. Life was such a struggle some people even defected to the North, which under its founder Kim il-Sung and with Soviet backing was more prosperous than its southern rival.

In mere decades, South Korea has gone from poverty to exceeding average wealth in the EU.

Yet, within my lifetime, this place has gone from poverty to prosperity at unprecedented speed, now even exceeding average wealth in the European Union.

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