Chapter 25: Assessing South Korea’s Green Growth Strategy
This chapter contributes to discussion in political ecology on the purported greening of the state by assessing the case of the Green Growth Strategy of South Korea––a country whose green record has been little explored in this research field (at least in English) and yet one whose distinctive economic status (once ‘developing’, now ‘developed’) invites wider attention. I thus critically examine this Strategy, exploring its discursive as well as material tensions and ambiguities as a major national initiative of an economically advanced country that purports to take seriously such epoch-defining issues as climate change and peak oil. I first draw together theoretical insights from work on environmental fixes, decoupling growth and neo-developmentalism as part of a consideration of the purported greening of the state, before turning to the analysis of the South Korean Green Growth Strategy. In that analysis, I suggest that it indeed displays all the hallmarks of ecological modernization, even as it raises troubling political, economic and ecological issues that will shape the country’s future. The conclusion is that the Green Growth Strategy is at best an example of very shallow greening, and at worst a smokescreen for a business-as-usual approach centered on a construction-oriented state. Hence political ecologists need to continuously monitor and critique ongoing permutations in the accumulation strategies of capitalism, being particularly alert to the environmental fixes that are deployed both to try to avert accumulation crises and to discursively colonize the terrain of green thought.
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