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Reviewed by:
  • Korea's Globalization
  • Timothy C. Lim (bio)
Korea's Globalization, edited by Samuel S. Kim. Cambridge Asia-Pacific Studies Series. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 306 pp. $54.95 cloth.

Composed of eleven chapters, Korea's Globalization is a useful and timely book on a subject that has sparked a huge amount of writing and analysis over the past decade or so. The subject, of course, is globalization and the impact it has had—and is having—on states and societies throughout the world. Unlike [End Page 133] many other analyses focused on globalization, however, Korea's Globalization generally adopts what might be called an inside-out approach. That is, rather than starting from the question, "How have the forces of globalization impacted South Korea?" this book begins with a question that could be phrased in the following manner, "How has South Korea attempted to harness the forces of globalization to its own benefit?" There is, in this regard, an effort (although largely an implicit one) by almost all the contributors to bring a strong sense of agency into their analyses of globalization's impact on South Korea. Yet, in the end, most of the book's contributors conclude that South Korea's efforts to harness globalization—manifested most clearly in the government's policy of segyehwa, which also happens to be a major theme throughout the book—have been met with almost unequivocal failure. Significantly, however, not all of the book's contributors blame this failure on the overwhelming power of globalization per se; a few, in fact, suggest that greater success was not only possible, but probable if only the right choices and/or strategic decisions had been made at the right time (thereby reinforcing the notion that agency matters). On this point, the administration of Kim Young Sam is singled out and subjected to especially harsh criticisms, particularly with regard to economic reform. I will come back to these criticisms shortly, but before I do, let me first provide a quick overview of Korea's Globalization.

Korea's Globalization begins with an introductory chapter written by the book's editor, Samuel Kim. The purpose of this introductory chapter, as Kim himself puts it, "is to provide a conceptual framework for a comprehensive assessment of the promise and performance of Korea's globalization drive . . . [and] of the various and multiplying ramifications of globalization dynamics upon all aspects of the Korean state and society . . ." (p. 4). Kim's discussion of globalization, while dated and a more than a little tedious (in that it goes over the already shopworn debate between the "globaloney" and "hyperglobaliza-tion" schools), is nonetheless useful. It is useful because, as Kim promised, it provides a framework for a comprehensive assessment of globalization's impact on various aspects of the Korean state and society. This is evidenced by the fact that the book's remaining chapters cover a wider range of issues, groups, and interests than one might have otherwise expected (at least this reviewer was pleasantly surprised—although not completely satisfied—by the breadth of coverage). Thus, while most traditional topics are covered—for example, the chaebol, economic reform, organized labor, and foreign policy—a number of hitherto marginalized topics are also covered, including the position of foreign migrant workers in South Korea and women's policy. Chapters 2–10 take on these and few other topics in a reasonably coherent and well-integrated, albeit understandably discrete, manner. Unfortunately, I do not have the space to discuss each of the chapters in any detail. Instead, let me highlight a few of their more significant and interesting aspects so that readers of this review can get a sense of the substance and structure of Korea's Globalization. [End Page 134]

In chapter 2, Barry Gills and Dongsook S. Gills investigate "the impact of economic globalization on South Korea's transition to a mature economy and democratic society, with special emphasis on the role of organized labor" (p. 29). The main focus of the authors' argument is on the "strategic choices" that faced the South Korean government in the early 1990s, which according to Gills and Gills, revolved around three basic needs...


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