Perceptions of unfairness and a weak universal welfare state in South Korea

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Since its democratization, South Korea has widened the population coverage of various social programs, yet the generosity of most programs remains shallow. Existing studies offer state/elite-centered explanations for this move toward a weak universalistic welfare state. I suggest that the move rather accurately reflects citizen attitudes as well: a majority of Koreans across economic classes support welfare state expansion, yet a large segment of the self-proclaimed supporters are unwilling to pay for the expansion. I argue that underlying such mixed attitudes is the perceived unfairness of the tax and transfer systems. More specifically, (1) the perception of unfair contribution vis-à-vis other taxpayers and (2) the perception of unfair fiscal exchange with the government significantly lower one's willingness to contribute to the welfare state. My analysis of a nation-wide survey lends support to my argument. My findings have important policy implications for the emerging economies where, despite a growing citizen demand for social protection, the fiscal support base for welfare state expansion is frail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-396
Number of pages21
JournalJapanese Journal of Political Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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