Organizer: Edward J. Schultz, University of Hawaii Chair: Donald N. Clark, Trinity University
Developing Civil Society in South Korea
Roland Wein, Korea-Kommunikations und Forschungszentrum
The purpose of this paper is to examine the development and current status of civil society in South Korea, to analyze problems civil society faces and to discuss its potential role in the democratization of South Korean society. Civil society will be understood as the sum of interests organized autonomously from the state.
It will be argued that the concept of a distinction between state and society has no tradition in Korean political culture. Successive authoritarian and military regimes in South Korea did not allow the establishment of intermediate groups between the individual and the state. The rapid economic development in South Korea since the 1960s resulted in social changes, in particular the creation of a middle class, which themselves were preconditions for the emergence of civil society since the late 1980s. The decline of political radicalism and the formation of new civil organizations were closely linked to the democratization of South Korean society, a discrediting of the left as a result of the collapse of the socialist system and the increasing social needs in society.
Civil organizations (NGOs) play an important role in the democratization process in South Korea. General features are the increase in number, the strengthening of their activities, the creation of national networks and the participation in regional and international cooperation. The paper will discuss these recent developments and, on the basis of that discussion, examine the prospects of civil society in South Korea and its importance for further democratization
This paper draws on English and Korean language articles and on publications of the main civil organizations in South Korea like the Coalition for Economic Justice, Korea Federation for Environmental Movement, Green Korea and the Coalition of Citizens' Movement.
Strong State and Weak Society? A Comparative Study of the National Pension Act
and the National Health Insurance Act of Korea
Chan-ung Park, University of Chicago
Previous studies have well documented that the Korean state, during the 1970s, led the economic transformation of Korea through a series of economic development plans. What has not been studied as well is that the Korean state also sought to establish state welfare programs by the National Pension Act of 1973 and the National Health Insurance Act of 1976 in a similar period. The state, however, canceled the Pension Act, while it managed to introduce its first national health insurance in 1976. Why did the state fail in national pension, while succeeding in health insurance?
Historical records indicate that both business and labor opposed the National Pension Act to the degree that seems to contradict the image of "strong state" after President Park's Yushin constitutional reform, but presented no opposition to the National Health Insurance Act. I will argue that such different positions of business and labor can explain the opposite outcomes of the legislation in these two cases. The main reason both business and labor presented in their opposition to the national pension plan was that they already had their own pension funds for their employees. In other words, the difference between the pension and health insurance plans was that the state imposed its new pension fund over the pre-existing pension funds of firms that both employers and employees had been controlling, while it created its health insurance fund in the absence of a pre-existing health insurance plan for their employees.
A comparative study suggests that state autonomy and capacities alone cannot explain the historical path of institutional development of state welfare programs. I will argue that the historical development of private welfare programs (such as corporate or union welfare programs) shapes the positions of business and labor on state welfare programs and, in turn, affects the nature of both the private and public welfare institutions that would emerge.
Patronage Politics and Democratic Transition in South Korea
Sunhyuk Kim, University of Southern California
One of the greatest challenges to the current democratic transition in South Korea is to go beyond "procedural" democracy and attain "substantive" democracy which, inter alia, can reduce regional and class inequalities. Unfortunately, South Korean transition so far has failed to take this challenge adequately. Instead, various types of informal patronage networks have been largely preserved and reinforced. My paper analyzes the persistence of patronage politics in South Korea, highlighting three factors in particular. First, it was primarily the role of resistant civil society groups that facilitated the recent authoritarian breakdown. Following the authoritarian demise, however, civil society groups got rapidly marginalized, delegating the task of re-configuring state-society relations to political parties. Such "premature delegation" relegated the process of democratic transition to a series of negotiations among political elites. Second, the emergence of a predominant party system in 1990 was principally based on a form of trasformismo. The outcome of such trasformismo-the birth of a "grand conservative coalition"-in effect excluded the option of substantive democratization from the transitional agenda. Third, the "democratic" regimes also widely maintained and relied on the existing patron-client relations with Chaebol. Based on a detailed analysis of these three factors, I argue that the progressive elements in South Korean civil society should be reactivated and remobilized to initiate independent popular movement to take back the process of democratization from the workings of elitist patronage politics.
U.S. Military Campside Town Stories in Korea
Ji-moon Suh, Korea University
Although most Koreans were grateful for the American presence in Korea until the 1970s, U.S. military campside towns were sore spots on the Korean consciousness, perceived as they were as the site of American privileges and Korean subservience and humiliation.
Most military campside town stories therefore dealt with the shady side of the town's life: the miserable and desperate lives of prostitutes; the cruelty of pimps; the violence surrounding the management of liquor and dance salons; and the innumerable shady dealings connected with the purchase and circulation of PX goods and military supplies. Cho Hae-il's 1972 novella America delineates the major and minor crises that beset prostitutes, owners and employers of liquor and dance salons, and others who live off the U.S. military base. Yun Heung-gil's 1977 short story "Without a Sail" focuses more closely on the manifold threats to the safety and survival of the prostitutes. Both authors view the abnormal condition of life in campside towns as arising from Korea's economic and military weakness vis-à-vis the U.S.
Bok Go-il's 1994 novel, The Camp Seneca Military Base Town, on the other hand, provides a rare look into the life of Korean campside towners living by trades other than prostitution and entertainment. Spanning a decade and half of the town's history, this autobiographical novel shows all the elements that make life around the military base harsh and unstable, and give glimpses of what creates resentments in Koreans towards Americans. However, the main focus of the novel is on what had been achieved through the Koreans' and Americans' mutual trust and goodwill. So, the work helps to balance out the stories that deal mostly with the mortification and injury Koreans suffer at the hands of GIs and U. S. military authorities and the recent works by radical authors who interpret all U.S. actions in and toward Korea as having imperialistic designs.