The Passion of the Korean Nurses

We take a look at the passion and hard work of the Korean nurses dispatched to Germany under Korea’s national policy in the 60s and meet the heroines that sacrificed themselves to earn US dollars to overcome national poverty. We trace the nurses’ steps back to how it all started – to the very person who had the idea of exporting the nurse labor force to Germany and made it actually happen. We explore how this became a page of Korea’s economic history.

Historical Facts: In the early 1960s, the Korean government established an economic development plan through industrialization, but its execution was difficult due to lack of foreign capital. In 1963, a Korean delegation for foreign loan negotiations visited West Germany and reached an agreement on commercial loans worth 150 million German marks. Germany wanted these loans to be guaranteed and suggested that if Korea sent 5,000 miners and 2,000 nurses to West Germany, it would lend money on security of their wages (this was the so called “the Labor Recruitment Agreement of 1963 between the Federal Republic of Germany and South Korea). The commercial loans that Korea acquired from West Germany by this agreement were spent on the first 5-year economic plan, invested mainly in industrial sectors.

The “Miracle on the Han River” was ignited by this process. Beginning of 1960, Korea’s per capita income was $69 and it was the second poorest country in the world. Today (2019), Korea’s per capital income is approximately $33,000 and the country has the 11th largest economy in the world, surpassing that of Russia, Spain, Mexico, Australia.