Piketty in Hell Joseon: Inequality, Polarization and Social Contention in a Neo-liberal Age
Dr Youngmi Kim (University of Edinburgh)
Friday 16 November 2018, 5:15 PM – 7:00 PM
Venue: Brunei Gallery Room B211
Hell Joseon is a pejorative term commonly used to compare Korea’s unequal society, somewhat simplistically divided into Kap (甲) and Eul (乙) to class-based Joseon. Is Korea’s present similar to its Joseon past?Korean society is changing rapidly. It is also becoming more polarized, with frustration and discontent mounting. Starting from the early 2010s the term economic democratization (to complement the political transition which began in 1987) has become a common expression in Korean politics and society. The demand for economic democracy and more shared welfare is now the ‘Zeitgeist’ in Korea. The paper explores the following questions: How are polarization and inequality affecting contemporary Korean society? How the deepening inequality is affecting Korean democracy in such crucial times? Do distributive conflicts affect the quality of Korean democracy and the likelihood of democratic backsliding? Drawing on Piketty’s insights into the origins of inequality in capitalist societies, the paper examines issues of income and wealth polarisation and dynamics of contention in early 21st century South Korea. The talk draws on the (edited) book Korea’s quest for economic democratization: Globalisation, polarisation and contention, published by Palgrave in 2018.
Youngmi joined the Department of Asian Studies as a Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies in August 2017. Prior to this, Youngmi was an Associate Professor of international relations and public policy at Central European University, Budapest. At CEU she was the director of the Global E-School in Eurasia, a large multi-country online education program in Korean Studies, bringing together 24 universities in 18 countries in Europe and Asia, supported by the Korea Foundation. Youngmi also worked at the University of Edinburgh in 2007-2009 when she was an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science. She has also taught at University College Dublin and has held visiting positions at the University of Vienna (Austria) and the National Chengchi University in Taipei (Taiwan). During 2013-2016 she has also been involved in a large research and teaching capacity-building project in Myanmar, funded by the Open Society Foundations.Her recent publication includes 2018 Korea’s quest for economic democratization. Globalization, polarization and contention (Palgrave) and 2018 Mandalay, Myanmar: The remaking of a South-East Asian Hub in a Country at the Crossroads. Cities – The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning. 72(B), 274-286.