Promissory shock, broken future: COVID-19 and state-led speculations in biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in South Korea

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COVID-19, COVID-19 infection, biotechnology, capitalism, debt, disaster recovery, geography, people, policy analysis, South Korea


This research examines institutional responses to shocking events, in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. I argue that our analysis should consider state-led nationalism in finance and financialization especially when new modes of financial accumulation can be correlated with state projects of crisis management. Also, in dealing with shocking events, which are an inevitable aspect of capitalism, I claim nationalistic deregulations and speculation stimulated by institutional discourse can put ordinary people into permanently unpayable debt and reshape social exclusion. Drawing from interpretative policy analysis, I examine how early COVID-19 management by the Korean government took advantage of sloganeering of upper-K words, initiated by the Korean Wave, as discursive tools in invoking nationalistic sentiments. The instutional nationalism in the upper-case K as prefix is examined in promoting Korean biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and their stocks. Further, I demonstrate how the accumulation strategies of this nationalistic COVID-19 management regarding bio and pharma industries were already practiced before COVID-19 in Korea, by the regulatory sandbox policy along with the Korean legitimation crisis. This set of practices has eventually accelerated the financialization of everyday life and Othering. I call for a critical lens to analyze the pressing agenda of discursive practices in institutional crisis responses.