East Asian Varieties of Capitalism and Socio-Economic Inequality: South Korea and Hong Kong Compared

Yin-Wah Chu, Tat Yan Kong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-89
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Issue number1
Early online date19 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong
  • South Korea
  • socio-economic inequality
  • varieties of capitalism
  • Dualisation
  • neo-liberalism


Dive into the research topics of 'East Asian Varieties of Capitalism and Socio-Economic Inequality: South Korea and Hong Kong Compared'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this