Chapter 2: Re-inventing Korea
2. Re-inventing Korea Eric J. Heikkila INTRODUCTION In this chapter I examine the larger forces that have a bearing on the future development of the Korean peninsula, particularly South Korea. In doing so, I draw upon a framework developed earlier (Heikkila, 2004a) that describes four fundamental influences in terms of an underlying tension between modernity and tradition. Two of these influences, markets and culture, pertain to values. Cultural values are those that are held in common within a society; market values are those that manifest themselves through commodity exchange. The other two influences, geography and history, relate to how the collective identities of societies are shaped by space and time. Here I wish to investigate how these theoretical and abstract concepts may be applied to inform appropriate developmental strategies for South Korea. South Korea, like any other country, is situated in its own unique historical, geographical, cultural and economic circumstances. So the question centres around how we might take a generic set of principles regarding the interplay between these four forces, and make sense of them in the context of the concrete reality of contemporary Korean society. Looking ahead to the conclusion, I find that Korean society remains rooted in a tradition that emphasizes cultural values and spatial identity, but that this orientation is changing. The developmental trajectory I advocate for Korea is one that retains many of these same cultural values, but articulates them in a more dynamic manner. This is ultimately a question of ‘reinventing Korea’. The chapter...
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