Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalization: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalization

1st Edition

By Kevin Gray


208 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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One of the most remarkable aspects of South Korea’s transition from impoverished post-colonial nation to fully-fledged industrialized democracy has been the growth of its independent and dynamic labour movement. Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalisation examines current trends and transformations within the Korean labour movement since the 1990s.

It has been a common assumption that the ‘third wave’ of democratisation, the end of the Cold War, and the spread of neoliberal globalisation in the latter part of the 20th century have helped to create an environment in which organised labour is better placed to overcome bureaucratic national unionism and transform itself into a potential counter-globalisation movement. However, Kevin Gray argues that despite the apparent continued phenomena of labour militancy and the rhetoric of anti-neoliberalism, the mainstream independent labour movement in Korea has become increasingly institutionalised and bureaucratised into the new capitalist democracy. This process is demonstrated by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ experience of participation in various forms of policy making forums. Gray suggests that as a result, the KCTU has failed to mount an effective challenge against processes of neoliberal restructuring and concomitant social polarisation.

The Korean experience provides an excellent case study for understanding the relationship between organised labour and globalisation. Korean Workers and Neoliberal Globalisation will appeal to students and scholars of Korean studies and International Political Economy, as well as Asian politics and economics.


"This is a welcome addition to the literature on worker's protest in that it is firmly grounded in the internal debates around strategy and tactics of the Korean labour movement.]…[The strength of Gray's book is the access he provides to internal labour movement publications and documents that are not readily available to non-Korean speakers." - Jamie Doucette, University of British Columbia, 2010

“…Gray’s book on the formation and development of trade unionism in Korea represents an important resource. It deserves a wide audience among scholars interested both in Korean political economy and in a broader set of questions relating to labour movements within conditions of simultaneous transition towards neoliberalism and capitalist democracy.” - Iain Pirie; Capital & Class February 2010 34: 146-148

Table of Contents

1. Neoliberal Globalization, Labour, and Resistance 2. Globalization, Crisis and the Entrenchment of Neoliberalism in Korea 3. The Rise and Fall of Militant Labour Unionism in Korea 4. Social Movement Unionism and the Korean Labour Movement 5. Late-Democratization and Low Intensity Social Corporatism 6. Korean Labour and the Struggle against Neoliberalism 7. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ Social Reform Struggle

About the Author

Kevin Gray is RCUK Research Fellow in the Department of International Relations, University of Sussex.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Korean Studies

Korea is currently experiencing its most significant transformations since the end of the Korean war. This series is a showcase for the latest research on North and South Korea. The series is interdisciplinary in its focus.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Labor & Industrial Relations
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General