Why does South Korea have a demographically massive and economically vulnerable self-employed population? From a comparative perspective, this study argues that Korea's self-employment problem originated in the country's process of unbalanced development: Korea benefited from the strategy of export-led growth, yet it did not manage the negative impact of this strategy on labour force absorption. The consequence of unbalanced development is the limited capacity of labour markets to absorb the workforce. Therefore, rural migrants in urban areas had no choice but to open small businesses, despite having few financial and technological resources.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2010-330-B00017). The author is grateful for encouragement and suggestions from Professor Hong Yung Lee of the University of California, Berkeley.