Since the formation of local councils of 1992 and the election of the head of local governments of 1995, Korea has stepped into the new period of localization. With many problems still unsolved, lots of researchers have expected the regional inequalities brought up under the centralized government system to decrease and the new politics devoted to the wellbeing of local residents to come true. In particular, they believe that local social welfare, which was consistently ignored during the centralized government system focusing on economy first strategy, has a big momentum, since local governments are to be much more responsive to the demands of local residents. This article aims to examine if such expectations have been fulfilled, and if the introduction of local autonomy system has created new problems. The main hypothesis of this study is that, under the conditions of the lack of progressive local goverrunent and of strong social forces demanding social welfare expansion, localization brings about regional inequalities in social welfare provision, rather than necessarily improving the local welfare level. To examine this hypothesis, this article compares five metropolitan areas in Korea(Seoul, Pusan, Taegu, Inchon, Kwangju) in terms of social welfare costs and social welfare facilities before and after 1995. This study expects that the differentials in those two categories have expanded between Seoul and the other metropolitan areas, since the economic differentials between the two ares have increased even after the so-called new period of localization. This article sheds light on the new academic issue in the study of decentralization and local social welfare. While most of the current researches are simply concerned with the relationship between localization and the agglomerate level of local welfare, this study focuses on the regional inequalities in social welfare provision caused by decentralization. If the hypothesis of this article is empirically supported, we can identify a new form of social inequality, for which the government have to prepare a remedy.
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