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The Political Economy of the Small Welfare State in South Korea

The Political Economy of the Small Welfare State in South Korea

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  • Date Published: September 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108415903

$ 105.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This book explains why the Korean welfare state is underdeveloped despite successful industrialization, democratization, a militant labor movement, and a centralized meritocracy. Unlike most social science books on Korea, which tend to focus on its developmental state and rapid economic development, this book deals with social welfare issues and politics during the critical junctures in Korea's history: industrialization in the 1960–70s, the democratization and labor movement in the mid-1980s, globalization and the financial crisis in the 1990s, and the wind of free welfare in the 2010s. It highlights the self-interested activities of Korea's enterprise unionism at variance with those of a more solidaristic industrial unionism in the European welfare states. Korean big business, the chaebol, accommodated the unions' call for higher wages and more corporate welfare, which removed practical incentives for unions to demand social welfare. Korea's single-member-district electoral rules also induce politicians to sell geographically targeted, narrow benefits rather than public welfare for all while presidents are significantly constrained by unpopular tax increase issues. Strong economic bureaucrats acting as veto player also lead Korea to a small welfare state.

    • Links industrial and institutional settings shaped by the Korean developmental state to a particular type of welfare state in Korea
    • Focuses on social security systems and welfare politics during the critical juncture periods of Korea, including industrialization, democratization, labor, movement, globalization, and financial crisis
    • Avoids applied economics, advance statistical analysis, and jargon
    Read more


    • Winner, 2017 Injae Best Book Award, Korean Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    '… the book is a convincing account, both explanatory and full of details and up-to-date empirical data, of the enigma of Korea’s small welfare state. A must-read for anyone wishing to apprehend the Korea of today and yesterday, and to contemplate its future. Thomas R. Klassen, Journal of East Asian Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108415903
    • length: 264 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • contains: 19 b/w illus. 26 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Theoretical reinterpretation of the small welfare state in South Korea
    3. The emergence of the small welfare state under the authoritarian developmental state (1961–1987)
    4. Democratization and limited welfare state development under the conservative rule (1987–1997)
    5. Economic crisis, power shift, and welfare politics under the Kim Dae Jung government (1997–2002)
    6. Economic Unionism and the limits of the Korean welfare state under the Roh Moo Hyun government (2003–2007)
    7. Wind of welfare and tax politics under the returned conservative rule
    8. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Jae-jin Yang, Yonsei University, Seoul
    Jae-Jin Yang is Professor of Public Administration at Yonsei University, Seoul. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University, New Jersey in 2000. He is interested in the underdeveloped welfare states in East Asia, Anglo-Saxon countries, and Southern Europe. His publications have appeared in Comparative Politics, the Journal of European Social Policy, Policy and Politics, Asian Survey, and the Journal of East Asian Studies. He is the author and editor of several books, including Retirement, Work and Pensions in Ageing Korea (2010). He won the Best Article of the Year Award from the Korean Political Science Association in 2013 and has received the Faculty Research Excellence Award four times from Yonsei University.


    • Winner, 2017 Injae Best Book Award, Korean Political Science Association

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