Take a look at the richest countries in the world... The United States, China, Germany, Japan, The UK, France, India, Brazil, Italy, Canada...
How did they become rich?
Well, the United States, Canada and Brazil are relatively young nations. They have only been in existence for a relatively short time by world standards. They are also very large countries that happen to be blessed in terms of natural resources. They all possess great quantities of valuable natural resources like coal, minerals, natural gas, oil, ore, timber, etc. And, the population of each of the three is made up of a mix of people from different backgrounds so there's always been an element of people coming together to make great things happen. The people were open to new ideas so innovation thrived, there was little to no infrastructure, so those societies were built essentially from scratch, and the people were able to exploit whatever the land had to offer to become rich and powerful.
But The UK and France, Italy and Germany have been around for a long time. They're far smaller in area, the population density is much higher, and the infrastructure is much, much older. None are particularly blessed when it comes to resources. They have some, but not a tremendous amount. And they've been warring with one another for hundreds of years.
China and India and Japan are also ancient. They've existed in some form or another for thousands of years. While India is a rich country, most of the people are very poor. And while China is one of the richest countries in the world today, it was only a few short generations ago that it was one of the poorest countries in the world. Japan really only became a top-tier nation in the past hundred years or so.
And after those ten, South Korea would be the next one on the list.
How did it get there? Well, South Korea, formerly just "Korea", was also one of the poorest countries in the world years back. It's not a particularly large country, and it's not particularly blessed when it comes to geography either. Wedged between China and Japan, Korea spent most of its history being battered by one or the other. It was a vassal state to China for centuries, it was at war with Japan and Japan finally colonised Korea and the effects of that defeat and the shame, the anger, the heartache that goes with it have never fully healed.
Korea is 70% mountainous. That means that there's only a small bit of land that's arable where people can grow crops. That means that the population has been stunted compared to places where the amount of food that can be produced is much greater. People were not educated, there was no real industry. The traditional approach to life and society combined with the crushing poverty held Korea back for centuries.
But after the war, money flowed in. People began to educate themselves. Many of the people who were able to avail themselves of the opportunity to get out of the country to see the world came back with a different point of view. They were less introspective and inward-looking and more insightful and innovative. As people became more educated, the standard of living improved. People had more disposable income so the service industry grew. Korea began to exploit markets in neighbouring countries to increase profits and brokered import/export deals with other nations on favorable terms.
A decade after the Korean War ended, the North was doing much better than the South. Soviet money was flowing into Pyongyang, and the DPRK was doing pretty well. South Korea was a backwater. People were using human faeces for fertilizer, there was a dictator in charge, people had no freedom, the economy was stagnant.
But Korea made the change from agrarian to industrial and the people displayed the drive and the determination to make the country great. In only a generation, they went from being just another poor country to being a powerhouse. Today, Korea is the 11th richest country in the world, the Korean military is ranked by most experts as being one of the top 10 in the world, the Korean passport is one of the most powerful on the planet.
Korea managed to achieve this with A) a lot of help - mostly from the USA (because a strong Korea is good for them), and also Japan... B) the drive, determination and wherewithal of the Korean people... and C) pouring money, resources and effort into industries like electronics and nano-tech at a time when those things were just taking off, and branding themselves well.