Much research in political ecology has tended to focus on critique rather than solutions and local-scale rather than regional or global-scale analysis. This has meant that the research field has only partly addressed the sorts of issues that a truly global political ecology must do. To this end, this chapter examines hydropower development using the Mekong River Basin as a regional case study of inter-state dynamics. It also introduces a benefit-sharing analytical framework to gauge how far and in what ways multiple benefits inform such behavior and represent a positive socio-economic outcome. The chapter argues that the Mekong case does in fact illustrate a more complex scenario than is often recognized in the literature in that some benefits do accrue to all states, and are diffused to a greater or lesser extent to the wider population in riparian countries. However, it also has to be acknowledged that there are clear social and economic costs to such hydropower development, with unequal power relations shaping who benefits most, where and when (and who pays the costs). A political ecology of benefit sharing thus needs to address all these facets of the development process.
Water management, particularly when water resources flow across national boundaries, represents both a security and a development challenge for the states involved. China and North Korea share two transboundary rivers: the Yalu and the Tumen Rivers. This study aims to evaluate the relationship between North Korea and China over water resources management in the Yalu River. Primary attention is paid to hydropower development since the 1950s. The fundamental elements of transboundary water relationships between North Korea and China have been enshrined in their common political ideology as well as security aspects, and the outcomes of their interactions relating to water have also been developmental. A series of bilateral agreements over the river basin has culminated in co-building and jointly operating four dams along the river. Two more dams are under construction, which signifies the extent to which the two countries are collaborating together in respect to hydropower generation and flood control. The case of joint hydropower development therefore reveals a number of things about the relationship between these two ‘brothers’. First, transboundary water issues in this river basin are not only tied to water resources management, especially hydropower generation, but are also tied to the peculiar power asymmetry between the countries in politics and economy. Second, China uses development approaches to enhance security on the peninsula. Third, development and security in relation to water serves not only the interests of the North Korean population but also the vital development and security needs of China.
Sophia Seung-yoon Lee and Seung-ho Baek
Lee and Baek review the social investment discussion in the Western context and examine how it differs from that in South Korea and Japan. The authors investigate how the social investment approach unfolded in South Korea and Japan, and discuss whether it represents the legacy of the ‘productivist welfare regime’ in the two countries. They find that although both Korea and Japan inherently developed the liberalistic social investment approach within productivist traditions, the countries differ in how the approach was implemented given their specific political economic contexts. Overall expenditure on family policy increased in the two countries during a period when the social investment approach was actively being discussed in South Korea, but not in Japan. The increase in social expenditure on family policy was a consequence of the changes in the structure of the population and the need for policy action.