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Unfinished modernity or another modernity? The South Korean case

  • Korean Social Science Journal
  • Abbr : KSSJ
  • 2015, 42(2), pp.73-88
  • Publisher : Korean Social Science Research Council
  • Research Area : Social Science > Social Science in general

Suk-man Hwang 1 임진호 2

1창원대학교
2고려대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

South Korea has experienced ‘‘compressed capitalist development’’ over the last five decades, characterized by unprecedented levels of industrialization and democratization, with other distinctive features. This development experience causes some scholars to view the country as a site for a new modernity, following the Western prototype. Concerning the underlying nature of emerging modernity in South Korea, however, there have been controversial insights: some scholars argue that the country is now experiencing a Western type of modernity, and others refute this, saying that it has not at all been modernized. This paper investigates the dynamics and contradictions of capitalist development in South Korea from a perspective of vertical modernization. It considers the origins, process, and outcomes of modernization mainly in terms of democracy, economic growth, and welfare. We assume that there are ‘‘different sites and forms of modernity’’ in the world, and that South Korea would be a good candidate to examine for non-Western modernity. Yet it is our contention that the country’s modernity has been distorted and unbalanced in the development of society, culture, politics, and economy. Historically, South Korea has progressed through traditional unmodernity, colonial undermodernity, and Western modernity. A clear examination of the country’s development experience reveals to no small degree the complex nature of modernity, in that tradition, modernity, and postmodernity coexist in the present time. We conclude that South Korean modernity is an incomplete project still in progress.

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