Dr. Dong-Kyun Im, The New Forms and Ethics of Individualism and Their Social Consequences in South Korea

  • Title: The New Forms and Ethics of Individualism and Their Social Consequences in South Korea
  • Date: Friday, Mar 31st, 2023 
  • Time: 3:30-5:00PM (PST) 
  • LocationChoi 351, C.K. Choi Building
  • Speaker: Dr. Dong-Kyun Im (Associate Professor at Seoul National University)
  • Bio: Dong-Kyun Im is an associate professor in the department of sociology at Seoul National University, South Korea. He received his degrees in sociology from Harvard University (PhD, 2014) and Seoul National University (BA and MA). He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of Journal of Asian Sociology. His interests include the areas of social psychology, political sociology, and sociological theory. His academic work aims to find the multilevel factors that contribute to human flourishing and democratic society. By developing and employing novel social survey questions, his recent work examines emerging social-psychological trends in Korean society, focusing on individualism and solidarity. In the 2022-23 academic year, he will be a Fulbright visiting scholar at Portland State University.

  • Abstract: In this presentation, Dong-Kyun Im will discuss how a new kind of individualism, which he refers to as the ethics of harmlessness (EoH), as a new form of cultural ethics is emerging in Korea and how this new individualism is associated with other social and cultural attitudes. In this study, he develops novel survey items and scales to measure the social-psychological orientations concerning individuality and interpersonal relationships in Korea. This study shows that this new cultural ethic is based on a widespread desire for less relational burden and more individualized well-being. The empirical analysis of social survey data shows that the EoH is likely to produce negative consequences in the long run; individuals with higher levels of the EoH tend to have lower levels of social/interpersonal trust, more closed/exclusive cultural scripts, lower tolerance for collective actions of vulnerable groups, less willingness to help strangers, and so on. The study highlights the paradoxical outcome that the pursuit of the EoH will bring about in Korean society. On the other hand, Dong-Kyun Im will also discuss and show how today’s individualized society magnifies individuals’ feelings of ontological insecurity and empirically demonstrate ontological insecurity leads to more extended and problematic social media use. He will also present other related findings from his analysis of social surveys conducted in Korea.