Science, technology, and the imaginaries of development in South Korea

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The Korean studies literature consistently points out that science and technology have played an important role in the rapid socio-economic transformation of South Korea. But the emphasis in this literature is placed predominantly on their contributions to the nation's industrial performance. Questions such as what type of policies and institutional reforms have been introduced to facilitate these contributions and how successful they have been are frequently asked. Science, technology, and development per se are, nevertheless, generally conceived as politically neutral and seldom interrogated. However, Korea has a long cultural tradition that envisions science and technology as tools for national empowerment. This instrumental view of science and technology has served as a crucial constitutive element of nationalist developmentalism that defines 'advanced/developed' and 'backward/underdeveloped' primarily in terms of industrialization and economic growth. In the South, it was under the Park Chung Hee regime that a more concrete form of nationalist developmentalism emerged and became firmly entrenched across the country. By reviewing the historical genealogy of the official and popular discourses of science, technology, and development in South Korea, the present paper traces how the nation's prevailing conceptions of the meanings, purposes, and roles of science and technology have embedded and been embedded in distinctive ideas of nationhood and development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-347
Number of pages31
JournalDevelopment and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017 Sep 1


  • Development
  • Development-alism
  • Nationalism
  • Science and technology
  • Sociotechnical imaginary
  • South Korea


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