Reform of the Developmental Welfare State in Korea: Advocacy Coalitions and Health Politics

  • Huck-ju Kwon
Part of the Social Policy in a Development Context book series (SPDC)


The welfare state in Korea has undergone a significant transformation since the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997-8. Before the social policy reform after 1997, the characteristics of the Korean welfare state could be well described as a ‘developmental welfare state in a selective form’. Social policy was used as an instrument of economic policy (productivist), the welfare programmes were structured in such a way that risk-pooling was narrow within particular social categories (selective) and the major social policy initiatives were motivated by political justification of an authoritarian regime (authoritarian). The recent social policy reforms were carried out in order to change the welfare state in the latter two dimensions, while maintaining a productivist orientation. As we shall discuss, the separate health funds under National Health Insurance (NHI) were integrated into one administrative authority which operates two national funds. The integration will make the NHI universal in terms of insuring all citizens with different income levels and risk probabilities with two national risk-pools (universal). Employment Insurance was also extended to workplaces with one or more regular employees,1 and the National Pension Programme to the self-employed. The Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (MLSG) introduced in 2000 is set to give benefits as a social right to those with income below the poverty line without a prior family and demographic test.2 These reform initiatives were undertaken by the government that came to power by winning a democratic election as an opposition party, with a broad-based social consensus in the wake of the economic crisis of 1997-8 (democratic) (Kuhnle 2001).


Welfare State National Health Insurance Health Fund Health Insurance Fund Opposition Parti 
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  • Huck-ju Kwon

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