Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalization
One of the most remarkable aspects of South Korea’s transition from impoverished post-colonial nation to fully-fledged industrialized democracy has been the growth of its independent and dynamic labour movement. Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalisation examines current trends and transformations within the Korean labour movement since the 1990s.
It has been a common assumption that the ‘third wave’ of democratisation, the end of the Cold War, and the spread of neoliberal globalisation in the latter part of the 20th century have helped to create an environment in which organised labour is better placed to overcome bureaucratic national unionism and transform itself into a potential counter-globalisation movement. However, Kevin Gray argues that despite the apparent continued phenomena of labour militancy and the rhetoric of anti-neoliberalism, the mainstream independent labour movement in Korea has become increasingly institutionalised and bureaucratised into the new capitalist democracy. This process is demonstrated by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ experience of participation in various forms of policy making forums. Gray suggests that as a result, the KCTU has failed to mount an effective challenge against processes of neoliberal restructuring and concomitant social polarisation.
The Korean experience provides an excellent case study for understanding the relationship between organised labour and globalisation. Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalisation will appeal to students and scholars of Korean studies and International Political Economy, as well as Asian politics and economics.
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Following mass demonstrations in June 1987, the democratic compromise
between the pro-democracy forces and existing political elites provided the
space for a rapid upsurge in labour militancy and the emergence of a nationwide
Thus, we are not witnessing the first stages of the emergence of a fully-fledged
redistributive welfare state, but the emergence of a minimalist 'workfare' state.
When it is considered that these improvements were seen to be in exchange for
It has been argued that the decline of the Keynesian Welfare State in the core
and the end of national developmentalism in the periphery alongside the global
rise of neoliberalism have led to the emergence of more dynamic and
It is also argued that the emergence of GCS has been encouraged by the decline
in state legitimacy and a growing reliance on civil society to find other ways of
fulfilling the welfare function, or as Lipschutz (1992) puts it, 'increasing state ...
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2 Globalization crisis and the entrenchment of neoliberalism in Korea
3 The rise and fall of militant labour unionism in Korea
4 Social movement unionism and the Korean labour movement
5 Latedemocratization and low intensity social corporatism
6 Korean labour and the struggle against neoliberalism
7 The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions social reform struggle