Post-war reconstruction

At the time of liberation in 1945, rural society was comprised of a small number of farmers who owned their own land and a large number of tenant farmers. The socioeconomic situation called for agricultural land reform to end the slave-like status of the tenant farmers.

The constitution that established the Republic of Korea in 1948 guaranteed private land ownership and proclaimed the adoption of acapitalist economic system. Unlike the North, which employed a policy of land confiscation and the redistribution of land, agrarian reform in the South was carried out with compensation paid to landowners. The reform had considerable impact in promoting the capitalist system and economic development in the South in the 1960s and afterwards.

The reform helped the South nurture a capitalist society by giving property rights to farmers unlike those in the North, where collective farms were the norm. The guarantee of private farmland ownership created the conditions for the guarantee of private property rights in other forms of economic activities (Hee-nam Jung, 1995).

The Korean War broke out two years after the establishment of the Korean government, and destroyed much of country’s urban infrastructure and industrial facilities. More than half of the urban infrastructure, including roads, railways, bridges and power supply facilities, were damaged. An estimated 20 percent out of 3.28 million houses were destroyed. Large cities, including Seoul, Incheon and Daejeon, suffered severe damage. It is estimated that the number of those who were displaced came to more than 2 million. Most of them resettled in the cities. This placed a new burden on the cities at a time of rapid urbanization.

The Rhee Syngman administration relied on “land readjustment projects” for reconstruction activities. Under this system, all owners of the land in a certain area first needed to agree in redeveloping their property as a whole. After the redevelopment, they were allocated new lots. A fixed portion of each owner’s land was taken by the developer. The developer, public or private, then sold it in order to cover the cost of development.

The program had the merit of reducing the government’s fiscal burden, as urban development could be carried out with the costs mainly borne by landowners. The land readjustment projects affected a total of 16.5 km2 in 23 cities, including Seoul, Busan, Daegu and Incheon, from 1952 to 1959, with main focus on postwar rehabilitation and the construction of new roads in urban areas.

Source : SaKong, Il and Koh, Youngsun, 2010. The Korean Economy Six Decades of Growth and Development. Seoul: Korea Development Institute.


· Jung, Hee-nam,“ A Study on Transition of Korea’s Land Policies in 1945-1995,” The Korea Spatial Planning Review, Vol. 23, Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, 1995 (in Korean).