Imagined Germany and the Battle of Models in South Korea

Rival Narratives of Germany in South Korean Public Spheres, 1990–2015

in German Politics and Society
Jin-Wook Shin Sociology, Chung-Ang University, South Korea

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Boyeong Jeong Sociology, Chung-Ang University, South Korea

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This article explores interpretive practices and discursive arguments that mediate transnational influences. In South Korea, a growth-oriented economy, competitive democracy, and an antagonistic relationship with North Korea developed during the Cold War era under the strong influence of the U.S. and Japan. This study analyzes how Germany—a country that is regarded as an exemplary case for a social market economy, consensus democracy, and successful national reunification—was imagined as a model for reform. By analyzing editorials and opinion articles published in major Korean newspapers, this article investigates the aspects of Germany that Korean elites paid attention to and the narratives that they constructed about Germany. The results show that competing Korean elites produced different German narratives and “German models,” leading to the integration of these competing models into conflicts surrounding South Korea's future.

Contributor Notes

Jin-Wook Shin is a Professor of Sociology at the Chung-Ang University in South Korea. He received his PhD in sociology from the Freie Universität Berlin in 2003. He was a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2012–2013) and a Visiting Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin (2012–2013) and the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz in Austria (2018). From 2016 to 2018, he served as the Director of the daad Center for German and European Studies (ZeDES) at Chung-Ang University. His research areas include democracy, civil society, social movements, social inequality, and welfare states.

Boyeong Jeong studied sociology and communication in Seoul and Groningen and obtained her master's degree in sociology with the thesis “Youth Precariat Movement and Discourse Politics in South Korea” at Chung-Ang University in 2018. She has published research articles about Korean social movements and political discourses in Korean and English. Her research interests include social movements, precarious work, and youth alter-activism.

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