8

Epistemological conflicts and institutional impediments

The rocky road to corporate bankruptcy reforms in Korea 1

Terence C. Halliday and Bruce G. Carruthers


Introduction

The Korean financial crisis, which began in late 1997, precipitated waves of law reform and regulatory innovation. Some of these reforms had been on the drawing boards before the crisis hit. 2 Other reforms became salient as the dimensions and severity of the crisis became more manifest. Allwere directed to the alleviation of the immediate problems brought by the debt crisis and most were intended to lay a new institutional foundation for robust market activity, which better adapted the Korean economy to itsglobal environment and to internal economic and political developments. 3

We view the Korean crisis and subsequent reforms through a narrow lens - that of corporate bankruptcy reforms - which reveal, nevertheless, a broader set of issues about globalization, law reform, and market practices in Korea. We shall argue that within the constraints of global financial institutions, Korea's response to the crisis surfaces a number of underlying tensions that define a changing equilibrium between law and the economy, and indeed, a changing institutional salience of law for Korean politics and society more generally.


The recursivity of law

We approach the case of Korea from a particular theoretical vantage-point. Socio-legal scholarship more generally, and the sociology of law more narrowly, brings the theory and methods of the social sciences to bear on law, its institutions, and behavior. Conventionally, the law andsociety movement in the US has seized one domain of behavior - thegap between the formal law on the books and operational law in practice - and made it an intellectual enterprise of major proportions. Thus, socio-legal scholarship extensively has shown how law in its statutory, judicial, and regulatory manifestations deviates in various ways, and according to systematic processes, from the intent or apparent meaning of the written law itself. In so doing, socio-legal scholarship acts subversively to

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