The cultural tempo of Korean modernity: Celerity in venture industry
Chung, Jae A.
Marcus, George E.
Doctor of Philosophy
Based on twelve months of fieldwork from August 2001--July 2002, the dissertation analyzes of the venture market in South Korea which, at the time, had undergone a significant depreciation of its national currency and instituted a series of market reforms, which included a novel experiment with an emergent financial organization in the form of venture capital market. This project is an anthropological inquiry into the events that followed. My ethnographic project analyzes the full arc of development and the present demise of venture industry in South Korea from 1997--2002 through two enduring points of reference: venture firm and venture capital firm. I place this development within the context of interaction between a new global financial form and articulation of Korea's social imaginary in its anxiety with celerity as an immanent expression of its modernity. In the end, I outline how venture industry fits into this narrative and give an overview of how the notion and practice of rapidity functioned in the making of the imaginaries and instantiation of venture not only as a market phenomena but as an immanent expression of the structure of rapidity itself as a cultural form. In doing so, I identify celerity as one of the central preoccupation of Korea's modernity. I frame my inquiry by placing the objective phenomenon of explosive growth and quick demise of venture market within the collective cultural idioms of hurriedness, or celerity. While taking into account of the local institutions and larger global reasons for failure of the venture market, I argue that, in Korea at least, two interacting logics were at work. First, instantiation of new financial technologies---in their conception and implementation---cannot be reduced to the logic of these technologies alone. In this case, the logic of the financial form was absorbed into a socio-structural logic, transforming both in the process. As such, celerity is seen as part of the mechanics of the structure of the market itself, and not only as an explanatory framework ex post to events. To open up that language of "mechanics" is to understand celerity as a cultural tempo, a structural component to the actual characteristic of the market. Second, drawing from the participant observation and interviews with venture participants themselves, as well as from my own cultural knowledge, I found that celerity has a thick social imaginary particular to the narrative of Korea's history and modernity. Or, put in another way, much of the discourse of venture market pointed to two spheres: the narrative of Korean history as an economic unfolding of troubled ascent into modernity, and the logic of what Koreans call pali-pali (hurry, hurry) syndrome, what I have chosen to call the problem of celerity. By this, I mean: the rush to and out of venture industry was seen as the manifestation of a long-standing historical problem of the uncertain status of Korea's modernity resolved through an intense but episodic engagement with signaling practices, practices that briefly absorb the attention of many in the middle and elite classes in Korea. This is the social and cultural manifestation of rapidity as a cultural phenomena that partakes polythetically in the language of speed but, at the same time, expresses the particular history of Korea in its engagement with modernity.
Cultural anthropology; Economics; Finance