Building a New World: The economic development strategies of the two Koreas in the Cold War, 1957-1966.

Building a New World: The economic development strategies of the two Koreas in the Cold War, 1957-1966.
This thesis is the first detailed cross-disciplinary comparative study of the early stages of nation-building in North and South Korea. It explores and compares the strategies of economic development implemented by the two countries in the late 1950s-mid-1960s, their relations with their main allies—the USSR in the case of the DPRK, and the USA in the case of the Republic of Korea, and the effects that state policies had on the everyday lives of the people. It aims to reveal how the differences and similarities in the external and domestic situations of the two Korean states influenced their economic choices.
Based on a variety of primary sources from the former Soviet Union, South Korea and the US, this study challenges the conventional perception of the two Korean states’ approaches to economic development as being vastly different from the start. It also argues that while foreign influence played an important role in the choices made, contrary to popular opinion it was not the overabundance of Soviet control over North Korea, but lack of it that allowed the DPRK to continue with its preferred model. By contrast, South Korea was more closely monitored by its ally the US, and eventually, the US was the main factor behind South Korea implementing what is now known as the South Korean development model.
As the first detailed comparison, this study contributes towards a more thorough understanding not only of the period of the 1950s-1960s in North and South Korea’s history but also of the current situation on the Korean peninsula and in the East Asian region. It facilitates a better understanding of the Cold War alliance dynamics in Asia and the circumstances which led to the present-day situation, with North Korea one of the poorest states, and South Korea a modern economically developed country.


Natalia Matveeva

Defended in

1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021

PhD defended at

SOAS University of London, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures




South Korea
North Korea


International Relations and Politics
National politics