Russell Patrick Burge

HistoryStanford University

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

HistoryStanford University

Civilian Battleground: Developmental Society and the Making of Modern Seoul, 1961-1979

South Korea's economic transformation is a storied success, one that has sparked continued research into the "developmental state" forged under authoritarian strongman Park Chung Hee (1961-1979). This interest has eclipsed other important questions, however, especially those concerning the human effects of rapid development. How did the South Korean social landscape transform during the period of rapid development? How did Koreans themselves understand their own country's developmental project, and in what ways did this guide their responses to state-led visions of economic growth? My dissertation aims to enrich this area of under-explored inquiry by investigating the history of one locality and its transformation in the Park period: the capital Seoul, the largest center of urbanization at the time and today the second-largest metropolis in the world. In Seoul we can see many of the government's most direct attempts to mobilize South Koreans for its social and economic programs, as the city government aimed to create large constituencies on behalf of the ruling Democratic Republican Party (DRP) and to remake urban landscape and society into those befitting a world capital. We also see the cost of such programs, as visions of development cut sharp lines between economic winners and losers, and often competed with the DRP's overriding drive for political control in ways that led to conflict or charges of hypocrisy. In these zones of contestation Koreans organized in new ways to press their claims and left their own marks on their country's changing landscape. Previous attempts to understand development in South Korea have focused on industry and policy, but in my dissertation I expose the embeddedness of this process in a larger social framework. The Social Sciences Research Council's International Dissertation Research Fellowship would be instrumental in allowing me to undertake substantive research on this topic, and I thank the committee for its consideration.