The 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and Habituating Developementalism in Korean Society

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Haenam PARK , Sociology, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
This paper examines social impact of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games on South Korean society. It attempts to explain the event not as a facilitator to the democratization, but as a means of justifying developmentalism derived from dictatorship government in Korea. The 1988 Seoul Olympics have been regarded as an event that not only displayed the state of the rapid economic growth, but also carried out a positive role in the peaceful process of democratization.

However, the current political situation in Korea raises a question whether the democratization is really successful or not because authoritarian style developmentalism is continuously supported by Koreans, even after the transformation into democracy. Some people claim that a certain level of the authoritarian rule are restored and legitimized. This study argues that the hosting gave the former dictators hegemony, a persuasive power which works in peoples’ everyday life.

First, huge amount of urban regeneration promoted Korean Chaebol(conglomerates) to build skyscrapers in the center of Seoul. Some of the buildings functioned as popular attractions and showed the most citizens the fruits of the economic development by the Chaebol and the dictatorship government.

Second, a huge number of apartment buildings were constructed by Chaebol’s construction companies and ‘Apart’ became a typical dwelling form of middle class in Korea. The middle class people dwelling in the ‘Olympic village’ invented their own consumer culture and lifestyle. That is, ‘distinction’ in Bourdieu’s term began among the citizens.

The middle class’s everyday life depends on the products by the Chaebol and the narratives on the growth of their households identify with the narrative of economic growth of Korea. This serves as a principal of supporting successor of the dictatorship in Korea, even beyond the democratization.