The Emergence of the Neoliberal Welfare State
in South Korea
Theories of government and the traditional analyses of their mecha-
nisms certainly don’t exhaust the ﬁeld where power is exercised and
where it functions. The question of power remains a total enigma.
Who exercises power? And in what sphere? We now know with rea-
sonable certainty who exploits others, who receives the proﬁts,
which people are involved, and we know how their funds are re-
invested. But as for power . . . We know that it is not in the hands
of those who govern. But, of course, the idea of the “ruling class”
has never received an adequate formulation, and neither have other
terms, such as “to dominate,” “to rule,” “to govern,” etc.
Michel Foucault, “Intellectuals and Power” (emphasis added )
The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the
new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid
antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks
his book explores the South Korean neoliberal welfare state at the par-
ticular historical conjuncture of the Asian Debt Crisis (1997–2001) and
the political transition to the Kim Dae Jung presidency (1998–2003). It
focuses on concrete case studies to gauge the speciﬁcities and implica-
tions of the South Korean neoliberal welfare state and social governing.
In particular, unemployed youth and the homeless—both designated as
“deserving” neoliberal welfare recipients—became prominent targets of
social policy during the crisis.
Unique to South Korean social governing is that its neoliberal wel-
fare regime was born in response to the crisis and appeared in the ab-