restricted access 9. Compressed Modernization and the Formation of a Developmentalist Mentalité
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Introduction South Koreans have struggled to overcome hunger and poverty for the past forty years. Despite the economic crisis of 1997–8, South Korea is now on the threshold of being one of the world’s most advanced economies. Millions of Koreans who are now over sixty years old have gone through historical turmoil . They have witnessed the transformation from a pre-modern to modern society in terms of individual living standards; from the devastation and poverty under Japanese colonial rule and during the Korean War, to new lifestyles encompassing cars, apartments, department stores, and overseas travel. Few societies have changed from a pre-industrial to a knowledge-based economy within one generation. Such rapid change has been referred to as “compressed modernization” (apch’uk chŏk kŭndaehwa and apch’uktoen kŭndaehwa). The rise of many South Koreans above the hunger and poverty level is attributable to industrialization and modernization. Even though there remain such problems as serious inequality, unemployment, a lack of transparency, as well as instability in the market system, many South Koreans have finally reached the minimum living conditions necessary for a decent life. Nonetheless, many obsessively believe that they should enjoy an even more abundant life. The middle and lower classes are eager to ascend to a higher social status. At the same time, each stratum of society struggles to live better than the other. They have no time to ask themselves what a better life is, or why they should want to live well. What is a better life to South Koreans? Only one clear criterion exists—materialistic affluence. They either have it or are eager to have it so that they do not need to envy others. The problem at this 9 Compressed Modernization and the Formation of a Developmentalist Mentalité Myungkoo Kang Compressed Modernization and the Formation of a Developmentalist Mentalité 167 point is that they put being wealthier than others before the substantial quality of their own lives. Being a winner in any kind of situation is considered to be a means to acquiring material prosperity. This prevailing idea is not limited to a few individuals or groups. South Koreans from lower to higher social strata are preoccupied with the desire for a better life. Developmentalism denotes a state of mind, behavioral style, and a structure of feeling that infatuates most South Koreans in this way. It is relevant to call such a state of mind a developmentalist mentalité because it forms a structure of feeling that makes up the psychological infrastructure inherent to South Korean society and goes beyond values or attitudes. I use the term mentalité as the Annales School defines it, meaning a kind of mindset that has been formulated in a society and shared by its community members over a long historical period, such as four or five hundred years. This chapter examines how a developmentalist mentalité formed in the family system, as well as bureaucratic and corporate organizations, during the Park Chung Hee era and how this mentality is related to the formation of individual and collective identities. A developmentalist mentalité serves as a system of ideology and affect that consolidates modes of behavior as well as ways of thinking. Due to this developmentalist mentalité, civil virtues and morals of solidarity and tolerance have been replaced with avaricious desires for material possession and an indiscriminate, competitive, survival mentalité. As researchers point out, the developmentalist mentalité is a behavioral framework and a way of thinking in a society where all people compete with one another just like a war of all against all. Based on the belief in the need to get more profit and privileges, rent seeking has been established as a “rational” rule of the game instead of reasonable investment and transparent management between bureaucrats and enterprises. How can this perverse rule of the game be changed? This study assumes that though the developmentalist mentalité has acted as a catalyst for social vitality, it has also become a social ill from which South Koreans suffer. To explore how the forms of developmentalist mentalités work in different organizations, this study reviewed nearly two hundred academic articles that deal with issues related to compressed modernization since the Park Chung Hee regime. By analyzing these secondary sources, the study tried to identify a variety of forms of developmentalist mentalités in bureaucratic and business organizations and in individual and collective identities. Myungkoo Kang 168 A Critical Review of South Korean Economic Growth Indicators of High Economic...


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