Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The rise and fall of Daewoo: The making and unmaking of the high-debt firm in Korea
by Kim, Jong-Cheol, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2009, 404; 3411222
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the history of Daewoo from a political economy perspective. By examining Daewoo's 32-year growth trajectory from 1967 to 1999, it aims to understand the rise and fall of Daewoo from a political economy perspective and to explain how and why the high-debt corporate model was constructed and destructed during this period of high growth in Korea.

Empirically, it examines how Daewoo fostered its unique strengths and weaknesses as a firm through its internal developments: growth strategies, financing methods, and organizational changes. Then, it investigates how Daewoo's unique responses to the changing business environment were related to the shifts in the government's policy framework in each phase. Following these two analyses, it interprets the rise and fall of Daewoo as an outcome of the interplay between Daewoo's uniqueness as a firm and its changing relations with the government.

Theoretically, it develops a high-debt corporate model as a counterpart institution of the developmental state in Korea and explains how and why a high-debt corporate model was created, transformed, and dismantled using the example of Daewoo. For analytical purposes, it suggests a preliminary concept of the high-debt model that is composed of diversified business group structure, highly leveraged financial structure, and dual control/governance structure. Further, it shows how the high-debt model was transformed with its growth and finally dismantled in the liberal economic framework of the late 1990s.

This study contributes to the knowledge of the political economy of Korea in two respects. First, given the shortage of historical studies on Korean firms in the field, this study fills an empirical void by providing a thorough historical analysis of Daewoo's evolutionary path from its birth to its demise. Second, given the lack of attention paid to firms in the developmental state approach, this study fills the theoretical gap by developing a high-debt corporate model as a counterpart institution of the developmental state in Korea's political-economic development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Evans, Peter B., Fligstein, Neil D.
School: University of California, Berkeley
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Economic history, Political science, Social structure
Keywords: Business group, Chaebol, Daewoo, Development state, Korea, Korean firm
Publication Number: 3411222
ISBN: 9781124037097
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