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The Political Economy of the Small Welfare State in South Korea

From the publisher’s website:

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

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.

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