Over the second half of the 20th Century, South Korea has transformed from one of the most backwards economies of the world into an economic powerhouse. It is no longer deniable that South Korea has become a central figure, if not ‘the’ central figure, of global capitalism. Naturally, our understanding of South Korea has also changed. In the past, scholars explained Korea’s development often by describing how capitalism of the West had diffused into Korea, which was then regarded merely as emulator pursuing modernisation. On the other hand, a more radical approach to the capitalist development of Korea focused upon Korea’s dependency on the US and structural constraints imposed on South Korea.
Contrary to this traditional literature, the more recent literature on Korea’s development tries to recognise the internal dynamics of South Korean development in general and the role of the state in particular, presenting South Korea as an alternative development model for developing countries. However, with too much wishful thinking for alternatives, this literature often turns blind eyes to many contradictions of South Korean development. Although this approach may partially overcome the Eurocentric understanding of East Asian development in general and Korean development in particular, it utterly fails to problematise Korea’s capitalist development and therefore overlooks the uneven, gendered, class-divided, labour exploitative and environmentally destructive nature of contemporary Korean development.
The current political crisis and the massive uprising of people in South Korea also cast doubt about the explanatory power of this uncritical approach to South Korea’s development and urge us to come up with a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of South Korea’s development. This special issue of Marxism 21 aims to bring together more critical analyses of South Korea’s capitalist development. In so doing, we want to intervene in current debates about the Korean development model and overcome the analytical, empirical and theoretical shortcomings of the benign understandings of South Korea’s development. In particular, we are interested in inviting foreign scholars and activists who want to produce critical and polemic analyses of the contemporary development of South Korea. The Editors of Marxism 21 will welcome articles dealing with:
- The history of South Korea’s capitalist development
- The nature and roles of the South Korean state
- The neoliberal transformation of South Korea
- The unknown aspects of the South Korean development including
- Gender and social movements
- Class relations and struggles in South Korea
- South Korea’s place in the global economy
Papers should not exceed 8,000 words in length and can be submitted both in Korean and English with a cover page which contains the following information – (1) the title, (2) the name(s) and institutional affiliation(s) of the author(s), (3) email address(es) and contact number(s), (4) an abstract of 100 to 200 words and (5) 3-6 keywords. If the submission is accepted for publication, it will be published in the Spring issue in 2018 (vol. 15 n. 1).