Peasant Protest & Social Change in Colonial Korea

Peasant Protest & Social Change in Colonial Korea

Peasant Protest & Social Change in Colonial Korea

Peasant Protest & Social Change in Colonial Korea

Excerpt

What this book attempts to do is understand socioeconomic and political changes of twentieth-century Korea by looking at the role of rural conflict. In particular it focuses on those historical processes and politics of peasant activism in the first half of the century that crucially affected social and political changes in the second. This approach significantly departs from the currently dominant political economy approach that stresses the importance of a particular world system and the state in the successful Korean transformation from a poor, agrarian country to a viable industrial society (Amsden 1989; Cole andLyman 1971; Jacobs 1985; Lim 1985; Mason et al. 1980; Song 1990; Woo 1991). Like other works of historical sociology, this book views agrarian conflict as a way to understand diverse paths to modernity (Moore 1966; Brenner 1976, 1977). It also agrees that "Korea's path to modernity and industrialization has not been a smooth evolutionary process but rather a discontinuous, uneven, and conflict-ridden one determined not by some immutable logic of modernization but by historical contingencies and a dialectical process of social change" (Koo 1993, p. 231). Accordingly this book examines the historical origins and legacy of peasant activism in colonial and post-World War II Korea that have shaped subsequent social and political changes.

No one doubts that South Korea represents a success story of the interplay of the state and world system in capitalist transformation. It recorded an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 9.7% from 1965 to 1988, reached $6,300 GNP per capita in 1991, and has become a major trading partner of the United States and Japan. Such economic prowess is especially dramatic because the civil war of 1950-53 almost . . .

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