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Imagined Germany and the Battle of Models in South Korea

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

Jin-Wook Shin and Boyeong Jeong

Abstract

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.