ABSTRACT

Chapter 6 demonstrated that the South Korean bureaucracy worked closely with the state in formulating economic policy and in shaping Korea’s capitalist modernity. This chapter will re-examine the role of the bureaucracy in light of another prominent field of inquiry in this volume: the workings of Korea’s developmental state (see Amsden 1989; Evans 1995; Haggard 1991; Johnson 1982, 1987; Önis 1991; Wade 1990). The existing literature on this subject postulates two major arguments. The first is that the state was largely, although not completely, autonomous from society.1 The second central tenet follows from the first: shielded from politics, a technocratic Weberian bureaucracy designed efficient policies and pursued a national agenda of development.2 In the classic explication of the developmental state, Chalmers Johnson argued that in Japan politicians reigned while rulers ruled: “the elite bureaucracy of Japan makes most major decisions . . . and is the source of all major policy innovations in the system” ( Johnson 1982: 20-21; see also Najita and Koschmann 1982). Along with Japan and Taiwan, during the period of high growth, Korea is often portrayed as a relatively depoliticized state which was run by austere technocrats and stern military leaders who focused on national economic development as a priority.