Sunrise in the East, sunset in the West : how the Korean and British shipbuilding industries changed places in the 20th century
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In 1965, Britain was less than a decade removed from world shipbuilding supremacy. They yet remained second only to Japan in the industry and boasted a long and proud heritage as one of the world’s best shipbuilders. South Korea, by contrast, at that time had only the barest rudiments of a shipbuilding industry and was not even an inconsequential factor in world shipbuilding. What little shipbuilding was done in Korea in 1965 was primarily concerned with wooden vessels. By 1982, the situation had completely reversed. South Korea was the world’s second-leading shipbuilder and gaining rapidly on Japan, the industry leader. Meanwhile, Britain’s presence in the industry had declined to near-irrelevance and was fading rapidly. This paper examines the technological, social, economic and governmental factors involved in that positional shift and explains how, in roughly two decades, Korea became a world shipbuilding power while the British shipbuilding industry virtually disappeared.