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Democracy and Social Change

A History of South Korean Student Movements, 1980-2000

Mi Park

South Korea experienced a transition from authoritarianism to democracy in the late 1980s. Throughout the 1980s, hundreds of university students in South Korea went to factories and shantytowns to organize the working class and the urban poor. While politicizing almost all issues extant in South Korean society, they mobilized thousands of students into formidable street demonstrations that eventually forced the Chun administration (1980-1987) to carry out sweeping political reforms. The book explains the emergence of the radical student movement and the subsequent political transformation in South Korea in the last two decades. It pays particular attention to the various organizing methods, the patterns of changing ideologies, and political tactics of the student movement. With extensive interview materials taken from former student activists, the book provides insightful insiders’ knowledge of what had happened in the student movement. By situating the South Korean student movement in its broad socio-historical contexts, it investigates the interplay of structural forces and agency to explain the political transformation of South Korea between 1980 and 2000.
Contents: Theory, Concepts and Methods: Issues in the Analysis of Social Movements – Capital, Class, and the State: A Brief History of South Korea (1945-1980) – Framing and Social Contexts: Ideas in the South Korean Student Movements in the 1980s – The Repertoires of Contention in the Student Movement – Political Transformation, 1987-1991 – State-Civil Society Relations, Political Economy, and Geo-politics in the 1990s – The Left in the 1990s: The Quest for a New Movement Ideology – Theoretical Implications for Social Movement Studies.