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158. South Korea, Twenty Years after the Financial Crisis of 1997

Fri, March 17, 5:15 to 7:15pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 4th Floor, Davenport

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


In 1997, Koreans, caught up in a rosy idea that their country had finally achieved the financial sustainability after joining the OECD, suddenly had to face economic crisis. With a $60 billion bailout from the IMF, Korea had to undergo radical economic restructuring. The restructuring meant market liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, implementing a neo-liberal mechanism in Korea. Under this radical change, the everyday lives of Koreans also dramatically changed. The IMF was referred to as “I aM Fired” or “I aM Fined” by the local media. In order to bolster the economy through domestic consumption, credit cards were issued indiscriminately; many Koreans in a debt circle. The suicide rate increased while the society was economically polarized.

This panel introduces how the financial crisis of 1997 has transformed both the structure of and everyday lives in Korea. First two presentations analyze structural changes. Lanu Kim and Solee Shin looks at how systematization of the retail and distribution sectors has diversified into the distributive sectors with a focus on the self-employment. Jinwon Kim pays attention to the state’s policies to make a positive image of the nation and boost the economy through new industries, including pop culture, food, and tourism. Then, the panel introduces how Koreans have responded to this economic transformation. Bohyeong Kim analyzes how the Korean middle class has developed their own self-financial management system by participating in wealth-tech [chaeteku]. Last, Myungji Yang introduces a recent widespread pessimistic view on Korea, “Hell Chosun” discourse, by younger generations.

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