Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Cracking the Modernization Theory?: Gregory Henderson and His Understanding of Korean Politics During the Cold War Era

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Willow, First Floor

This paper examines the modernization theory and its modified version in Korea through a case study on the least understood expert on Korea, Gregory Henderson (1922-1988), a diplomat, scholar, and political commentator. Henderson’s work, Korea: the Politics of the Vortex (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968) was the first and the only masterpiece on modern Korea and its political history in the 1960s when the modernization theory was at the height. Henderson argued that because there were no meaningful “intermediary organizations,” Korean social sources were too much centered on Korean politics, particularly in the capital, Seoul. He believed that his study of Korean case would also apply to other Asian and African countries. Thus, to him, Korea had to be de-centralized for achieving real democratization. As a professor at the Fletcher School in Boston, MA, Henderson was actively working with East Coast scholars, particularly such as John Fairbank, Edwin Reischauer, and Edward Wagner etc., at Harvard. 

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