본문 바로가기
  • Home

Is the left always an active promoter of welfare states?: A case study of Japan and Korea

Soon Mee Kwon 1

1고용노동연수원

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article challenges traditional theories on the role of the left and power-resources mobilization based on Western European welfare states’ experiences. Traditionally, welfare state research has claimed a central role for leftists and their capacity to mobilize power resources, deemed crucial features in welfare state construction. However, this study claims that such a rationale may rest on a West-biased explanation. The mainstream leftists in Japan and Korea have been passive in building a welfare state for a long time, mobilizing instead popular sentiment on foreign security or national unification policies, considered as more crucial political issues than welfare policies. The social democratic approach to welfare development was likewise viewed negatively. These views from the leftists partially contributed to the construction of ‘small welfare states’ in East Asia. A belief in radical ideologies such as Marxism-Leninism and the Juche ideology, and regarding socialism as an ideal model to replace the capitalist system, were common traits in the area. This was based on a strong sense of distrust and hostility toward the anti-communist, conservative governments that dominated the scene at that time, accelerated by the domestic Cold War, a geopolitical specificity of East Asia. This study suggests that it is not only the size of the power resources of the political left that counts, but progressives’ policy attitudes and strategies matter as well in the development of welfare states.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.