Political Regimes, Path Dependence, and the South Korean Welfare State



Contrary to common belief that political actors can fundamentally shape the welfare state, any political regimes with distinct positions on welfare policies are usually put under public scrutiny, which makes it risky for them to simply follow their traditional beliefs without taking into account public reactions over welfare-related decision making. In terms of the welfare state development, South Korea is an interesting example in the sense that parties from different political backgrounds have had the opportunity to run the country for almost the same amount of time, since progressives came to power for the first time in modern Korean history. Based on data ranging from 1998 to 2016, the relationship between the welfare state and political/socioeconomic conditions is evaluated alongside policy implications, revealing the path dependence of the South Korean welfare development. The increase in social spending in South Korea was rather due to natural phenomena such as population aging, than any political actors’ approaches to the welfare state.

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