SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Chu, Yin-Wah and Kong, Tat Yan (2024) 'East Asian Varieties of Capitalism and Socio-Economic Inequality: South Korea and Hong Kong Compared.' Journal of Contemporary Asia, 54 (1). pp. 61-89.

Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY 4.0).

Download (4MB) | Preview


This article examines the deepening of socio-economic inequality manifested as dualisation in South Korea and deregulation in Hong Kong. It explains the extreme manifestations of inequality by reference to the nature of economic co-ordination, organised labour power and societal corporatism, and the politics of democratisation. It finds that South Korea’s legacy of state-orchestrated co-ordinated market economy favoured the retention of a manufacturing core despite globalisation. However, the neo-liberal inclinations of the state and big business groups led to the marginalisation of less privileged firms and workers. These inclinations reinforced the defensiveness of the small but strong labour organisations, preventing effective societal corporatism. These phenomena are fully understandable only with reference to the country’s conservative democratisation that divided the liberal and left political forces. The geo-political legacy also induced identity conflicts that overshadowed socio-economic issues. By contrast, Hong Kong’s liberal market economy coupled with the absence of security concern had allowed a radical de-industrialisation in the 1990s and wholesale casualisation in the 2000s. Divided by identity politics, organised labour was unable to challenge the trend. The same conflicts also led pro-China labour organisations to side with business interests in the post-1997 electoral autocracy and prevented the introduction of more fundamental reforms.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Dualisation; Hong Kong; neo-liberalism; socio-economic inequality; South Korea; varieties of capitalism
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 00472336
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2022 16:43
Funders: Other

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item