The Failure in Embedded Autonomy: South Korean Regulatory Reform Experience

Seminar with Professor Yeonho Lee, Yonsei University, Korea

Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Director of Yonsei-SERI EU Center, and Director of the Institute of East and West Studies, Yonsei University. He received his BA in Political Science at Yonsei University, Korea. He read political science at the University of Cambridge, UK, with the support of the Chevening Scholarship, and obtained MPhil and PhD. He had been an ESRC Fellow at the University of Warwick, UK, until he joined in Yonsei in 1998. His research and teaching interests include international development cooperation, environment and development, development theories and Korean political economy. He is the author The State, Society and Big Business in South Korea, Routledge and Theories of Development, Yonsei University Press, Unequal Development and Democracy in South Korea, Pakyongsa. He has also published several articles in academic journals including the Pacific Review, Asian Survey and Korean Political Science Review.

The failure of bureaucracy in Korea is highlighted even more in the Park Geunhye Government. The Korean bureaucracy is functioning as neither an efficient industrial promoter nor sound market supervisor. Peter Evans once argued that the East Asian Developmental-states owe their success to the embedded autonomy of the government which is formulated through the inter-personal network between government bureaucrats and the private sector. The embedded autonomy still exists in Korea. However, unlike Peter Evan’s assertion, whether the embedded autonomy’s role is positive is questionable. The research analyzes the two major crises, Kori Nuclear Plant blackout (2012) and the Sewol Ferry tragedy (2014), in which the government’s safety regulation system failed. It concludes the failure of the embedded autonomy caused the collapse of the safety regulation system monitored by the bureaucrats. The bureaucrats strengthened their regulatory power through quasi-governmental regulatory organizations which acted on behalf of the government to supervise the private sector. The private sector, trapped in denser regulations and positioned under the supervision of the quasi-government regulatory organizations, was easily tempted to abuse the informal personal network, and this eventually led to regulation failure.

Free entry, all welcome.

For any questions contact Andrew Jackson: krm769@hum.ku.dkc