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Water Policy and Vulnerabilities in Soyang Watershed

TERRECO Cluster H-05

From 09/2012 to 08/2015

Principal Investigator: Detlef Müller-Mahn, Sang-Hun Lee, Thomas Koellner, John Tenhunen
Staff: Jintae Hwang

Abstract: Recently, in the face of global climate change, there is an increasing attention to water governance in social science research. The term “governance” is also significantly important in Korean society. Most literature regards governance as a non-hierarchical mode of governing, where non-state actors participate in the formulation and implementation of public policy. Transformation “from government to governance,” however, does not mean the end of government. Rather, we conceptualize governance as a political contestation between actors at various geographical scales. We focus on spatial differentiation of governance, i.e., from a hierarchical structure led mainly by state actors to a non-hierarchical structure which is based on participation of non-state actors. Building on this position, we understand that water governance is determined by specific spatio-temporal settings (e.g., more hierarchical versus more non-hierarchical). Specifically, by focusing on water governance and the path-dependency of water related policies of the Korean developmental state, this research focuses on the following question: How was water governance in South Korea determined by hierarchical and non-hierarchical structures after democratization in 1987 and by prosperity of environmental movements after the 1990s?

For this case study, we will employ in-depth interviews (national actors such as national bureaucrats, politicians, etc. and local actors such as politicians, residents, etc.), fieldwork in the Soyang Watershed and related to Soyang Dam, participant oberservations, and analysis of materials and texts (government reports, local newspapers (e.g. Kangwonilbo) and related academic articles). Verifying the water governance and path-dependency of the Korean developmental state, the case study should provide the following results.

1) An explanation for uneven development and spatial disparity between upstream and downstream regions such as Seoul Metropolitan Region vs. Gangwon Province.

2) Identification of disadvantages for local inhabitants caused by marginalization of national development at the local scale.

3) Analysis of path-dependency of the developmental state still influential in water governance in a more hierarchical way.

In addition, this research emphasizes the inter-scalar relationship between the national and local levels. It may apply to other TERRECO research, such as land-use in Soyang Watershed. Upstream regions are strictly regulated by the state because these regions have played a key role in providing water to Seoul Metropolitan Region. On the other hand, recently some regulations which hinder local economic development are partly removed at downstream regions by acting local territorial politics.

Key words: water governance, water resource policy, developmental state, South Korea    

Poster January 2013

last modified 2015-07-30