Caught in between Decentralization and (Re)Centralization: Environmental Disaster Management in South Korea from a Multilevel Perspective

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



The twenty years experience of decentralization and local democracy in South Korea has brought about many changes in its central-local relations. Yet, the case of environmental disaster management has produced more or less ambiguous outcomes. While local governments have been quite successful in their preventive measures and in immediately controlling (and thus reducing) predictable and manageably sized disasters, they have been vulnerable to more complex and transboundary environmental disasters. In the latter cases, local governments come across as pulling back to become mere puppets of the central government, but in fact, there is a lot of toing and fro-ing between the central and local governments behind the scenes. This type of behavior often results in jurisdictional disputes as well as delayed post-disaster management and recovery. In this paper, through the analysis of institutional change over disaster management and a case of hydrofluoric gas leakage, we explore organization and contextual factors that affect both horizontal (among local governments, civil society and private sector) and vertical (among subnational and national governments) collaborations. The factors range from local capacity problems to trust in governments.


Political Science

Research Areas

Political Science


Workshop on Decentralization and Disaster Governance in Urbanizing Asia, 5-6 March 2015

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