The Small Welfare State
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The Small Welfare State

Rethinking Welfare in the US, Japan, and South Korea

Edited by Jae-jin Yang

In a period of rapid change for welfare states around the world, this insightful book offers a comparative study of three historically small welfare states: the US, Japan, and South Korea. Featuring contributions from international distinguished scholars, this book looks beyond the larger European welfare states to unpack the many common political and institutional characteristics that have constrained welfare state development in industrialized democracies.
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Chapter 7: Why welfare state building is of secondary importance to leftists in Japan and South Korea

Soon-Mee Kwon

Abstract

Traditionally, welfare state research has claimed that leftists and their capacity to mobilize power resources are crucial factors in welfare state building. However, this chapter points out that such an approach may rest on the West-biased assumption that they are socio-economic reformists. Within the context of the Cold War, mainstream leftists in Japan and South Korea tended to place more of a priority on pacifism and nationalistic issues such as reunification than socio-economic issues. Furthermore, they adhered to radical ideologies such as Marxism–Leninism and Juche, making them hesitant to work towards the construction of a welfare state. Accordingly, the power resources of leftist groups in Japan and Korea have not been used for welfare state building.

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