The welfare state in Korea : the politics of legitimation
This thesis analyses the development of the Korean welfare system since the 1960s within the institutional dynamics of Korean politics. Its aim is to contribute to the understanding of Korean politics through the analysis of the Korean welfare state. The thesis argues that the making of social policy has been determined primarily by the politics of legitimation, in particular before democratisation. This thesis identifies the confined institutional circle responsible for crucial social policy decisions. In this institutional terrain, the President and his ministers and policy experts have played the dominant roles. The democratisation since 1987 brought about institutional changes and enabled institutions such as the National Assembly to exercise effective power in social policy-making. The political rationale of social policy is deeply embedded in the structure of social policy institutions, especially the way in which the state intervenes in the financing of welfare programmes. In the mix of welfare financing, the regulator type of state intervention emerges as the dominant feature in Korea. This thesis assesses the outcomes of social policy from two perspectives: the perspectives of redistribution and of social rights. Social policy intervention has so far had little redistributive effect mainly due to the immaturity of the welfare system. In terms of social rights, the universality of rights to health care was achieved in a relatively short period of time. Rights to protection against industrial accidents have made good progress in terms of compensation and protection for the last three decades, despite the limited coverage. However, the quality of social rights that have so far been implemented is low. In two important respects, the approach of the thesis is characterised by methodological broadness. In the policy analysis, the thesis moves beyond an institutional approach to including also the substantive outcomes of institutional changes. In the analysis of outcomes, the thesis covers both the perspective of redistribution and the perspective of social rights.