Date of Award


Degree Type



Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

First Advisor

Rosentraub, Mark

Subject Headings

Economic development -- Social aspects -- Korea, Social networks -- Economic aspects -- Korea, Regional planning -- Korea, Korea (South) -- Economic conditions -- 21st century, Korea (South) -- Social conditions -- 21st century, Growth pole, Political economy, Elite, Regime, Cumulative causation, Trickle down, Polarization, Disparity, Social network, Social capital, Shift share, Perroux, Hirschman, Mills, Pareto, Kaldor, Affirmative policy, Unbalanced growth, Seoul, Korea, Chaebol


The Republic of Korea's efforts to accelerate the development of its economy in the aftermath of an extremely destructive civil war led to the concentration of capital and activity in areas that resemble the growth poles described by Perroux (1950) and Hirschman (1958). These poles led to an extreme centralization of economic activity and people in the Seoul Metropolitan Area (SMA). More than 48 percent of the GDP, 90 percent of the headquarters of major firms, and 48 percent of the population is concentrated in 11.8 percent of the Republic's land (2006 figures). Despite the agglomeration economies, the national government has investigated policies and practices to spatially reorganize the growth-pole regions' industrial base to bring more balanced growth to other parts of the country. These efforts have been mostly unsuccessful. To better understand factors that could be undermining efforts to decentralize and enhance the distribution of economic activity this study looks at the relationship between social linkages among power elites and the concentration of economic activity. After assessing the existence of growth poles and their dominance, this study also analyzes the consequences of the concentration of capital into two regions. The third and main part of the study uses social network analysis (SNA) to identify the existence of a powerful social system that sustains these growth-pole regions and impede meaningful change. The data analysis strongly suggests that changes in the 'creative destruction' of social patterns at a minimum must occur at the same time that efforts are made to alter path-dependent economic patterns. The final section of the dissertation presents some recommendations to achieve the needed reforms in social networks that must precede any change in the concentration of economic activity