How Much Has the Korean Developmental Welfare Regime Changed?: An Analysis of the Social Bases of the Korean Welfare State

This paper attempts to explore social bases of the Korean welfare state by analyzing the Korea's part of the ISSP(International Social Survey Program) data, an world-wide public opinion survey data. Until now most research on the East Asian welfare regimes have focused on the analysis of the formal institutional and program structures of the welfare system or public social expenditures, and their comparisons among countries. However, the recent inclusion of some East Asian countries to the ISSP survey data allows us to explore the people's ideas and perceptions about the various areas of the government roles including the economy and social welfare, helping explore certain aspects of the social bases of the welfare system based on the individual cognitive level.
It has been argued that one of a plausible regime type of characterizing some East Asian countries is a 'developmental welfare regime,' which had emphasized the state's architectural role in constructing the welfare system to help the state-led economic growth and rapid industrialization strategy. Perhaps the Korean case is one of the best examples. However, Korea has experienced an extensive welfare reforms toward a 'universalized' insurance system since the financial crisis in the late 1990s, even though the heavy influence of the globalization and the neo-liberalism. Observing this trend, some commentators claim that the Korea has gone beyond the stage of the developmental welfare regime toward a post-developmental one.
This paper, as a preliminary research applying these data to the Korean case, framed various dimensions of the social bases of the welfare system based on the previous theories on the development of the welfare state, including individual characteristics, education and skill specificity, labor market status, political partisanship, and region and religion. The statistical analysis based on the ISSP data reveals that the Korean welfare system does not have any strong and coherent social bases regarding particular groups, classes, and partisanships to support its expansion toward the universal welfare state as causality level. The Korean people's idea of welfare still remains in the narrow concept of welfare, a residual concept of welfare helping exclusively the low-income people rather than a universal one of welfare supporting a wide range of social insurance system. The majority of the Korean people continue to support a wide range of the roles of the state, especially the economic growth and regulation, even though a relatively long and strong exposes of the neo-liberal ideology. These findings imply that the institutional legacies of the developmental state still remain strong in the Korean people's perception in the role of the state, restraining the emergence of the policy reform agenda toward a universal concept of the welfare system.