Industrialization and Social Mobility in Korea

Park, Hyunjoon
Working paper no. 1999-32


This paper investigates intergenerational social mobility among men in Korea that has experienced tremendous social change related with a rapid and compressed process of industrialization. High structural mobility resulting from the massive outflow from agricultural to non-agricultural sectors reflects the drastic transformation in economic structure. Despite distinctive structural mobility, however, Korea shows patterns of mobility which are very similar to those described by the core model of Erikson and Goldthorpe. But it is also revealed that the Korean mobility regime differs from the core model in three significant ways: 1) lower levels of immobility among the service class, small proprietors, and farmers; 2) weaker barriers between sectors; and 3) more upward mobility. Korea shows greater social fluidity than England, France, and even Sweden. Finally the analysis of trends of social mobility finds that the association between origin and destination has been constant across four cohorts in spite of remarkable economic development.