Nine years before the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square rocked the seats of power in China, the students of Gwangju, South Korea laid their lives on the line for democracy. In the ensuing Gwangju Massacre, the South Korean army slaughtered perhaps as many as 2,000 people, and brutalized thousands more. However, this horrific event marked the beginning of the end for military dictatorship in South Korea.
Analysists often say that in the aftermath of Tiananmen, the government of China essentially offered its people economic development and the chance to get rich in exchange for their agreement to leave the government in power. The example of South Korea shows, however, that it is possible to have both democratic reforms and incredibly fast economic growth... which has its own pitfalls, as the popular anti-conspicuous consumption video "Gangnam Style" by Korean rapper Psy demonstrates.
Winston Churchill once quipped that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." It seems that capitalism may also be the worst form of economic organization, except for all the others.