Uncomfortable Compromise Between Developmentalism and Welfarism?: Politics of Social Investment in South Korea

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Young Jun CHOI , Korea University, South Korea
Moo-Kwon CHUNG , Yonsei University, South Korea
Jiyeun CHANG , Korea Labour Institute, South Korea
While South Korea (hereafter Korea) has been experiencing unprecedented social risks together with the weakening stability of family and the labour market, a comprehensive set of social protection schemes has been introduced and expanded during the last two decades. In the process of building the welfare state, one of the noticeable aspects is the emphasis on social investment policies and social services, less favorable to cash-providing schemes such as pensions. Free childcare services, a range of active labour market programs, and the long-term care insurance are the significant outputs of the policy trend. The recent development of the Korean welfare state, however, leaves many interesting research questions in comparative perspectives. The questions that this paper pays attention to are about the politics of social investment policies and also whether these policy developments are functional outputs against increasing social risks or political outputs in the course of emerging welfare politics. The Korean welfare state has revealed the vulnerability of its income maintenance schemes against ‘old social risks’ such as the highest old-age poverty rate among OECD countries. Comparing to other 'developmental' welfare states in East Asian region, one could easily notice that social investment policies and politics have been much more visible and stronger in Korea than any other countries. This paper will trace the origin and the development of social investment discourse in Korea and discuss why and how these social development policies and politics have been possible. In so doing, it will explain 'developmentalism', the important legacy of the Korean welfare state, and discuss how this legacy has been transformed in the waves of socio-economic-political changes. It will argue that it is crucial to analyze social investment politics to understand the dynamics and the identity of the Korean welfare state.