[KS] How unequal is South Korea, really?
frank at koreaweb.ws
Mon Aug 28 20:34:25 EDT 2006
Dr. Bertrand Renaud's rejoinder to Paul Shepherd
(thanks for posting this, Young-Key) raises also
some questions about Korean Studies.
I think this is a highly interesting discussion
because it touches on just so many important
issues that go far beyond economics. Dr. Renaud,
of course, has already expressed that in various
ways in his posting.
Inequality, economic, social, sexual inequality,
*if* perceived as such, has always been the motor
for political movements. When Dr. Renaud states
that "[t]he land distribution issue in Korea is a
major social issue by Korean choice" he basically
seems to say that it is mostly the perception of
inequality that drives people into the streets,
whatever the Gini, Pini, or Winimini. In a
country like Korea such perception then
legitimizes certain kinds of political actions.
Violent protest such as street fights or
squatting, for example, are widely accepted as
legitimate tools of political protest in Korean
culture. Not so in the U.S., but again quite so
in most of Europe! Conflict solving strategies
and cultures in general, both in private and
public, are quite different in Korea and the U.S.
What I wonder about, though, is how exactly
people come to their perceptions of inequality --
no doubt this seems to be culture-specific, to a
large degree at least. How otherwise can we
explain that hardly anyone in the U.S. really
cares about such amazing facts: "the top
one-tenth of one percent [that's 1, not 1% !] of
the income distribution earned as much of the
real increase in wage-and-salary income from
1997-2001 as the bottom 50 percent of the
country" (NBER newsletter, as quoted by Dr.
Renaud). Tell that some first graders and show
them some photos and they will be shocked. But
something is happening between first and 10th
grade. Something very different seems to happen
in Korea between 1st and 10th grade.
In the late 60s and the 70s "interdisciplinary
approaches" were very popular in the humanities.
Personally, most such "interdisciplinary" works I
had to read came across like cut & paste wisdom
collections for Catholic youth groups. What
really happened, however, is that Economics, Art
History (not East Asian Art History), and many
other fields -- not as much History,
unfortunately -- incorporated methods from
psychology and sociology into their disciplines.
Economics or Art History, for example, does not
need to be "interdisciplinary" therefore.
Now ... what about Korean Studies, I mean Western
Korean Studies as we all know it? What is that?
And who needs it? What for? (Same question for
Sinology/Chinese Studies and Japanology/Japanese
Studies.) Is Korean Studies just a collective
term to name studies related to Korea/n from the
"real" disciplines, both the humanities and the
hard sciences? Or is it Samsung's and the Korean
Overseas Information Service's international arm
to propagate things Korean? Mianhamnida
...mianhae, mianhae, I will never ever o it
again, but this one time. Can Korean Studies, if
it exists (it sure does in Europe) offer any
answer to the inequality/culture complex that
e.g. Economics as it exists as a discipline today
cannot answer? If I am asking the wrong question,
please let me know why.
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