“IF WE DO well, the country does well, and if the country does well, that is the way for us to do well,” reads the inscription on the walls of the former Hyundai Heavy shipyard in Gunsan on South Korea’s west coast. The quote from Chung Ju-yung, the late founder of Hyundai, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, is an apt summary of South Korea’s development strategy. Equating manufacturing prowess with the national interest drove the massive state-led investment in heavy industry that made South Korea rich.

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Today the fading letters are an ominous sign of things to come. Four years ago the Hyundai shipyard and the GM car factory in Gunsan shut within ten months of each other, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. There is a risk of more such devastation in the…

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