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Tracing the Process of Institutional Change: The Case of the National Pension Scheme Reforms in South Korea

Moon, Hyungyung (2018) Tracing the Process of Institutional Change: The Case of the National Pension Scheme Reforms in South Korea. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis analyses the causal pathway through which the National Pension Scheme (NPS) in South Korea has been transformed. The scheme that was introduced in 1988 experienced two major reforms in 1998 and 2007, and they took place even before full pensioners who met minimum years of pension contributions existed. The aim of this thesis is to illuminate the way in which the two reforms unfolded, by investigating whether existing theories of welfare states can have explanatory power. Founded on historical institutionalism emphasising the dynamic interplay between institutions and actors, the research employs a process tracing method to unpack the causal mechanism of the NPS reforms. Given that current scholars discuss its methodological aspects mainly, this thesis attempts to put process tracing in practice. The thesis formulates the causal mechanism from Kim and Choi’s theory (2014) that pays attention to the role of welfare bureaucrats in the reform process, while examining the validity of other theoretical approaches too. Based on internal documents and elite interviews with those involved directly in the NPS reforms, the findings suggest that the welfare bureaucrats did play a primary role in reforming the scheme in a parametric way. Several welfare state theories are also tested to address the issue of equifinality. The findings indicate that Kim and Choi’s theory is highly likely to be the sole approach encompassing “both” reforms, while the 2007 reform requires further research for the validity of alternative theories such as policy transfer via international organisations and the impact of neoliberalism. Consequently, profound differences existed in pension politics between the pre-reforms and the period of the reforms. Through the case study, the research also reveals the strengths and weaknesses of process tracing as well as its application to political research, and makes suggestions for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Social Policy and Social Work (York)
Depositing User: Mr Hyungyung Moon
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2018 13:30
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2018 13:30
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20895

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