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Welfare Reform and Future Challenges in the Republic of Korea: Beyond the Developmental Welfare State?



Since the economic crisis of 1997-98, the Republic of Korea has carried out vigorous social policy initiatives including the reform of National Pension Programme and the National Health Insurance. This paper seeks to answer whether the Korean welfare state has moved beyond the welfare developmentalism by examining the cases of those two programmes. By the reform, the coverage of the National Pension Programme was extended to all population; its financial sustainability and accountability were enhanced. Regarding National Health Insurance, efficiency reform was taken in the management structure, while the reform regarding the financing was on hold. These reforms were in clear contrast to the welfare developmentalism that used to place overwhelming emphasis on economic considerations. Despite these reforms, however, the Republic of Korea’s welfare state faces the issues of ineffectual implementation and lack of financial sustainability of social policy. The National Pension Programme has failed to cover the majority of irregular workers, whose numbers are on the increase, and National Health Insurance needs to find a way to meet increasing health expenditure.

This article has been published in International Social Security Review, Vol.55, No.4, 2002, pp.23-38, and is posted on the UNRISD site with permission. For more information on the journal, please consult http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journals/issr/

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  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Oct 2002
    Pub. Place: London
    From: Blackwell