Forthcoming Issue

September 2017

All Politics is Local: Judicial and Electoral Institutions’ Role in Japan’s Nuclear Restarts

Daniel P. Aldrich, Northeastern University, Boston, USA

Timothy Fraser, Northeastern University, Boston, USA

Keywords: Japan, nuclear power, veto player, contentious politics, restarts, QCA

Abstract:

Since the 3/11 compounded disasters, Japanese energy policy, especially its nuclear policy, has been paralyzed. After the Fukushima disasters, public opinion turned against nuclear energy while the central government continues to push for restarts of the many offline reactors. Based on nearly 30 interviews with relevant actors and primary and secondary materials, we use qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and five case studies to illuminate the impact of conditions influencing reactor restarts in Japan after 3/11. We investigate which local actors hold the greatest power to veto nuclear power policy, and why and when they choose to use it. Key decisions in nuclear power policy involve approval from multiple institutions with varying legal jurisdiction, making vetoes the result of multiple actors and conditions. Certain legal and political factors, such as court, regulator, and gubernatorial opposition (or support), matter more than technical factors (such as the age of the reactor or its size) and other political factors (such as town council or prefectural assembly opposition or support). Local politics can stymie a national government’s nuclear policy goals through combinations of specific physical conditions and vetoes from relevant actors, rather than through the actions of local opposition or single “heroic” governors. Our findings challenge the assumption that utilities unilaterally accept a governor’s vetoes, but reinforce the notion that specific judicial and electoral veto players are blocking an otherwise expected return to a pro-nuclear status quo.


The Regime of Urban Informality in Migration: Accommodating Undocumented Chosŏnjok Migrants in their Receiving Community in Seoul, South Korea

HaeRan Shin, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Soyoung Park, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA

Keywords: urban informality, receiving communities, Joseonjok, undocumented migrants, public sector, Seoul

Abstract

This study looks at how a regime of urban informality has taken shape in a migrant receiving community in Seoul, South Korea. It investigates how actors from the public sector and the private sector came to help undocumented Chosŏnjok migrants stay in the Kuro/Taerim area of Seoul regardless of their legal status. We view such practices as a response to local changes provoked by shifts in the geopolitical environment and fluctuating national policies. Based on longitudinal fieldwork, including in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival research, the findings of this study are as follows. First, public sector actors, including the Korea immigration service, local authorities, and local police have shifted their roles from controlling to accommodating, being motivated by competition with other departments, promotion, and personal attachment. Second, the private sector has expanded its role, building on relations between Chosŏnjok as easy-going customers and service providers who have tired of the mainstream Korean service market. This study contributes to the understanding of regimes of informal settlements and their spatial contexts.


The Paradox of Inequality in South Korea: Minsaeng Kyŏngje and Reinvigorated Developmentalism 

Ji-Whan Yun, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea

Keywords: minsaeng kyŏngje, Park Geun-hye, reinvigorated developmentalism, norm of low taxation, narrow coalition

Abstract

Scholars have discussed whether former South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s commitment to minsaeng kyŏngje (the economy for the people’s livelihood) was a compassionate conservatism to address growing inequality or only lip service to social policy. However, this debate has confined the issue to the social policy realm without explaining the paradox of inequality in which Park’s minsaeng drive resulted: the increasing resurgence of old policies of developmentalism despite her continuing commitment to minsaeng to exploit inequality for political gain. Alternatively, this paper argues that minsaeng kyŏngje is neither a sincere nor a pretended compassion, but a political discourse maneuvered by the Korean conservatives to reinvigorate old developmentalism in the face of new conditions of inequality. The Park government first offered minsaeng kyŏngje as a catch-all discourse, which included some welfare policies and the traditional doctrine of economic development. Later, the government reinterpreted minsaeng as a subset goal of economic development. It scaled back welfare pledges and manipulated the minsaeng concept to legitimize development policies. Additionally, this paper describes both the orientational and organizational characteristics of Korea’s developmental welfare state that have shaped the politics of minsaeng kyŏngje. The conservatives made use of the norm of low taxation to avoid a systematic welfare increase and proposed an alternative minsaeng discourse by combining old developmentalism with a few welfare policies. The structure of a narrow power coalition enabled the Park government to maneuver the minsaeng discourse to fulfill its shifting policy priorities without coordination with other political actors.


Further Articles To Be Announced


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