Reconstructing Sustainable Communities through Mutual Help Networks in East Asia: A Comparison of Mutual Help Networks in Japan, South Korea and China

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: 512
Oral Presentation
Morio ONDA , Sociology, Ryutsu Keizai University, Ryugasaki-shi, Japan
One way that man has maintained society throughout history is through networks of mutual help. The purpose of this paper is to show that such traditional mutual help persists in East Asia, but has been transformed in the transition to modernity and has contributed to the development of both South Korean and Chinese modern society. Mutual help in these two societies is compared with the already well-studied Japanese case. The phenomenon is divided into three categories. One is reciprocity in helping to plant rice and re-roof houses by exchanging labor. The second is redistribution. In exchange for the right to get goods from a common store, local people have the obligation to maintain a common pool of resources. Finally, unidirectional help refers to support in funeral and wedding ceremonies requiring no monetary exchange. While the traditional forms of these customs have almost disappeared from modern life, they can still be clearly identified in all three societies. This paper reports the results of an interview survey and fact-finding fieldwork of South Korean and Chinese contemporary mutual help and shows that systems of mutual help arising from indigenous conditions has continued to contribute to sustainable communities in the evolution toward full modernity. The paper concludes that modern societies might do well to take note of such mutual help networks and incorporate them into official strategies as they search for solutions to both public and private social problems raised by the reconstructing of communities in East Asia.