Failed Internationalism and Social Movement Decline

The Cases of South Korea and Thailand

Author: Jim Glassman; Bae-Gyoon Park; Young-Jin Choi


In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, South Korean social movements converted a former military dictatorship into a more democratic regime, while raising hopes for yet more improvements in the position of Korean workers and farmers. In the 1990s, Thai social movements also cast aside a military dictatorship and opened a period in which popular movements seemed poised to make yet greater gains. Yet as of 2008 it is apparent that social movements in both South Korea and Thailand have faced increased difficulties and have seen a number of significant setbacks. The authors of this article analyze what they take to be one of the reasons for these setbacks: the failure of social movements in both of these countries to more successfully internationalize their efforts. Failed internationalism is far from being the only significant factor in this social movement decline, and, moreover, it has not necessarily occurred in precisely the same way in the South Korean and Thai cases. The authors show, however, that by analyzing similarities and differences in the patterns of social movement decline between South Korea and Thailand one can discern some common conundrums faced quite generally by social movements in an era of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

Countries: Korea | Thailand

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September 2008