The Pathway to a 'Small' Welfare State in South Korea: Welfare Politics of Continuity and Change in the Post-Democratization Period

This article aims to explain the way in which South Korea has taken the path to a 'small' welfare state since the 1990s in the post-democratization era. This studyasks and answers why the universalization of public programs has rapidly occurred and at the same why Korea has mainly remained the smallest welfare state among OECD countries today. Characterization of recent welfare changes in South Korea as a 'small' welfare state seems to contrast with the argument that democratization politics has played a crucial role in upgrading the Korean welfare state since the 1990s. But it is not the same explanation as what the 'productivist welfare capitalism' suggests.The framework of 'incremental change of institution' is useful in analyzing patterns of continuity and change of social policy institutions, overcoming both functionalist aspects of democratization thesis and the static model of the productivist welfare capitalism.We need to look at the ways in which defenders and challengers compromise, and its consequences. This analysis has two advantages: 1) we can pay more attention to defenders' reinterpretation of the institutional rule and their active roles in the rule revision and 2) we can analyze the effects of the pre-existing rule on challengers, and their limitations of alternatives. In the rule-remaking process of public programs, we have definitely witnessed the democratization of social rights, but we have seen bureaucratization reinforced and marketization introduced simultaneously.In addition to the analysis of such a rule-remaking process of public programs, it is critical for us to look at whether 'functional equivalents' to public welfare programs have been incrementally transferred to public sphere or more broadly applied. Capital and labor, as main financial contributors and tax-payers, have been passive in the universalization of social insurance programs and the growth of public welfare, pursuing segementalist social insurance programs and importantly expandingcorporate welfare programs as functional equivalents to public programs.The private sector actors' responses along with the public sector actors' havecontributed to the building ofa'small' welfare state in South Koreain the post-democratization period.

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