Hyun-Chin Lim, Kwang-Yeong Shin

Received: 24 November 2023 / Accepted: 20 February 2024 / Published online: 1 June 2024
Korean Social Science Research Council 2024

This paper explores the formation of the neo-developmental state in South Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic. The globalization of the coronavirus brought about de- globalization in which the nation-state regained its sovereign power. The state tried to respond to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways, and it had to choose effective measures, not only in terms of public health but also according to economic imperatives. Unlike many European countries, South Korea did not pursue lockdowns, but it imposed social distancing and prohibited public gatherings from the beginning, frequently closing schools and shops. The globalization of the coronavirus has resulted in a neo-developmental state with strengthened state power vis-à-vis the market and civil society under strict neoliberal fiscal policies such as austerity. The developmental state formed a unique structure that was directed at economic growth and the cult of bureaucracy based on an imbalance of power within the state apparatus. The economic planning agency also exercised its power in shaping state policies. The Moon Jae-in government testifies to the formation of the neo-developmental state in an austerity policy framework with a persistence of low welfare spending and enormous spending on economic affairs. While the neo-developmental state has contributed to reduced economic strain, it has
also led to social devolution and social degradation.