Transition to the 'Universal' Welfare State: the Changing Meaning of the Welfare State in Korea


Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Harvard-Yenching Library, Common Room, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard-Yenching Lecture Series

Event poster

Huck Ju Kwon, Professor, Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University; Harvard-Yenching Institute Visiting Scholar

Huck Ju Kwon is Professor at the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University. He graduated from Seoul National University and obtained his D. Phil in Politics from St Antony’s College, Oxford University. He was Director of the Global Research Network on Social Protection in East Asia, funded by the Korea Research Council (2010-2013). During his stay at HYI, Kwon will work on Korea’s transition to the universal welfare state from normative and political perspectives.

Chaired by Anthony Saich, Daewoo Professor of International Affairs; Director, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School

Co-sponsored by the Korea Institute

Over the last fifty years, the welfare state in Korea has evolved from a minimal structure of welfare programs to a comprehensive set of institutions and policies for social protection. This talk traces changes in understandings of the welfare state articulated by policy makers, examining their political strategies to lead Korean society to the welfare state. The concept of the welfare state has changed its meaning according to their political strategies at different conjunctures, while the aspiration for the welfare state as an ideal state of affairs, where a certain level of well-being is guaranteed for all by the state, remains strong if not stronger than before. For the welfare state is an essential component of Korea’s modernization project which goes beyond the left and right divide of the Korean politics.