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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of industrialization on the quality of life in Korea: case studies of Ulsan and Kyungju Shin, Dong-Ho


South Korea experienced extraordinary economic growth in the period from 1960 to 1990. From a backward economy in the 1950’s, South Korea has been transformed into an urban industrial society with high levels of managerial and technical competence within governments, corporations and local communities. This dissertation examines Korea’s remarkable economic growth from the theoretical level and the local level. It presents an integrative framework, based on a review of the conventional theories and perspectives of modernization, dependency, world-system, and the New International Division of Labor (NIDL). The research documents the central government’s industrial policies and its collaboration with the corporate sector in the policy practice. It then analyzes economic, social, and environmental impacts of the two partners on local communities. The impacts in the industrial city of Ulsan are compared to the conditions in the traditional city of Kyungju. This case study includes survey research, which was designed to obtain public opinion on a wide variety of issues, from three different groups: government officials, corporate managers, and citizens. The research leads to the following conclusions. In contrast to Neo-Marxist arguments, well coordinated actions between the government and the private sector have a positive effect on industrial development, notwithstanding some constraining forces from the external world. Industrial growth in Korea did create a better Quality of Life for the general public. It supports some elements of the world-systems urban theory, such as emphasis on internal and external forces, internal dynamics within a developing country, and the relationships among world core, national centers, and smaller cities. Writings by Peter Dickens, Armstrong and McGee and Hagen Koo are shown to be useful for this kind of research. The thesis does not support the thread of the traditional dependency theory and the NIDL thesis. Industrialization in Korea did not marginalize the general public. Rather it improved the Quality of Life for the public, which is supported by the opinion survey indicating that more than three quarters of the sample respondents see that their Quality of Life has improved. Rapid industrialization in Korea caused social and environmental problems especially in the industrial cities. The survey result indicates that ninety four percent of the respondents from Ulsan regard environmental pollution a ‘very’ serious problem for the city, while the equivalent number for Kyungju was twelve percent. The survey result also shows that the public is now concerned more with social issues, such as a clean environment and a more equal distribution of wealth, than economic growth. As people’s awareness has expanded substantially to include elements of a better Quality of Life, both the local government and citizens agree there are problems with the conventional approach to industrial promotion. Although the strong views are held, neither the national nor local government have developed coherent policies to deal with this new phenomenon. The national government has expanded the roles of provincial and municipal governments in policy development, and this will include the election of local mayors and governors in 1995. It will provide a forum for better definition of the problem and more opportunities for their resolution.

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