[skip to content]

Department of Financial and Management Studies (DeFiMS)

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN THE JAPANESE AND KOREAN ECONOMIES

Course Code:
151030020
Unit value:
0.5
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

Course convener: Dr Tuukka TOIVONEN (www.tuukkatoivonen.org / tt37@soas.ac.uk)

This course invites students to embark on a challenging but essentially exciting journey from so-called “Capitalism 1.0” through “Capitalism 1.5” to an emergent “Capitalism 2.0” in Japan and South Korea. Taking some of the key institutions and conventions of “Capitalism 1.0” (large conglomerates, hierarchical workplace communities, sharp gender role distinctions, smooth school-to-work transitions for youth etc.) as its baseline for comparisons, the course observes how such institutions were weakened by globalisation-related pressures in the 1990s and 2000s, and also how they are currently being challenged by new entrepreneurial initiatives as well as social innovators. While the cases of Japan and South Korea differ in important respects — with the latter having experienced “a compressed modernity”, including a more rapid decrease in birthrates — they are both becoming home to aspiring tech entrepreneurs, highly dynamic change-makers and female leaders within myriad domains. Both abrupt as well as “slow” crises — including the 1990s economic crisis (Korea) and the 3.11 triple disaster (Japan) — have shaped these developments in important and non-obvious ways, exposing various tensions and contradictions in the social and economic fabrics of both countries.

This course will encourage students to critically investigate, with a strong awareness of prior history, the complex ongoing transition of the Japanese and South Korean economies towards a dynamic “Capitalism 2.0”, the precise shape of which remains unknowable but the seeds of which are observable. The course will place considerable emphasis on young adults as a mirror of broader economic shifts and as a potential force for change on the way towards new economic realities. As the only course at SOAS that examines crucial trends such as crowdfunding, social entrepreneurship, organisational innovation and female leadership from a global perspective, it is an essential resource for students wishing to meaningfully participate in the new economy as employees, researchers or entrepreneurs in the future.

Weekly themes

<Introductory Sessions>

Theme A / Week 1: Postwar Capitalism 1.0 in Japan and South Korea: Dominant Institutions, Issues and Idealisations

Theme A / Week 2: The Pressures of Globalisation and Capitalism 1.5: Lower Regulation, Higher Efficiency and Higher Tech

<Core sessions: Towards Capitalism 2.0>

Theme B / Week 3: Entrepreneurship under Capitalisms 1.0 and 1.5

Theme B / Week 4: The Emergence of New Entrepreneurial Initiatives: From Incubators and Social Media Communities to Crowdfunding Campaigns

Theme C / Week 5: Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation I: The First Role-Models and Catalyst Communities

Theme C/ Week 6: Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation II: Strategies to Overcome “Old Capitalisms”

Theme D / Week 7: Crises as (Lost) Opportunities for Change I: Japan’s 2011 Triple Disaster and South Korea’s Economic Crisis

Theme D / Week 8: Crises as (Lost) Opportunities for Change II: Innovative Models for Recovery and Sustainability in post-3.11 Japan

Theme E / Week 9: Women Leaders amid Extreme Gender Inequality and Low Birthrates

<Review and summary session>

Week 10: Capitalisms 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0: A layered, chaotic co-existence or a new, coherent set of ideas?

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Provide a contemporary perspective on Japan & Korea’s socio-economic development and the implications for managerial decision making and evaluate the key management implications across a broad range of socio-economic indicators
  • Discuss the implications of demographic change in modern Japan & Korea , including the economic and social impact of population change
  • Evaluate the major contemporary socio-economic challenges faced by Japan & Korea in participating in the global market economy and its implications for international management
  • Critically evaluate contemporary changes in Japanese & Korean labour markets and discuss their implications for local and expatriate workforces
  • Understand the importance of technology and technological upgrading
  • Identify the difficulties as well as future challenges posed by food and energy security in the Japanese and Korean economies
  • Interpret the importance of the Japanese and Korean economies in the global economy and the implication of this for international management  
  • Evaluate the sustainability of current growth rates in these countries and provide insight on how management should deal with the uncertainty posed by this question

Method of assessment

This course is assessed by 30% written coursework and 70% by one two hour examination

Suggested reading

Indicative Readings:

  • Ibata-Arens, Kathryn. 2009. Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Japan: Politics, Organizations, and High Technology Firms.
  • Mikitani, Hiroshi. 2014. Marketplace 3.0: Rewriting the rules of borderless business.
  • Song & Lee. 2014. The Samsung Way: Transformational Management Strategies from the World Leader in Innovation and Design.
  • Toivonen, Tuukka. 2013. Japan's Emerging Youth Policy: Getting Young Adults Back to Work (Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies).