Does networked governance structure create more values?: The case of the Korean strawberry industry

Authors: Sohyun Park*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Rural Geography, Agricultural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: governance, horticulture, rent theory
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 4
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
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While the role of governments in rural development in the East Asian context has garnered attention, less is known about why some are successful while others are not. The study draws on the rent theory and on empirical examples from Jinju and Nonsan, the two biggest strawberry production regions in South Korea, to explore the mechanisms of Jinju retaining values from exports exclusively in spite of Nonsan's willingness to access the premium markets. I investigate (1) how regional governance structures are constructed in institutional contexts, (2) how Jinju has created monopoly rents by excluding others from the export markets and national subsidies, and (3) how the differences result in varying adoption rates of hydroponic farming system, different rural landscapes. Based on the 5-months of fieldwork and in-depth interviews with stakeholders, the findings show that Jinju has a networked governance structure consisting of small agricultural enterprises while Nonsan is hierarchical that a region-based trader determines sales strategies. Jinju collectively has controlled market access through leveraging its natural environment to cultivate an 'exportable' variety and establishing a strawberry export association that determines the distribution of subsidies. The subsidies transformed the landscape in Jinju into a more industrialized one. While the case informs development policy for a smallholder-driven agricultural system, it raises an equity question in that the strategies of Jinju are to defend rents rather than create or add value. The study contributes to the literature by examining how regional governance structures shape local production and rural landscape.

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