Economic Crisis and Restructuring in South Korea

Beyond the Free Market-Statist Debate

Author: Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett


This paper, which examines the causes of the South Korean crisis in 1997-98 and the nature and consequences of the post-crisis restructuring process, looks critically at the neoliberal position but also at what the authors call the statist position (which celebrated and continues to defend the usefulness of industrial policy and state direction of the economy against neoliberal critics). While there are important differences between these approaches, the authors show that because both ignore the structural causes of South Korea's crisis, neither is able to explain, much less help overcome it. The paper then examines the economic, political, and social effects of the restructuring process, demonstrating how it has left the South Korean economy more dominated by foreign capital and the chaebol, and more dependent on exports and labor exploitation than before the crisis. As a result, South Korea appears headed for a new crisis. The authors conclude by highlighting ongoing worker resistance to the restructuring process and a movement-building strategy for advancing a worker/community-centered recovery and development program.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Korea

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September 2001
© Jeff Kingston