Can Social Diorganization Theory Explain Violent Crime in Seoul, South Korea?: A Longitudinal Cross-Cultural Examination




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



A large body of work has applied social disorganization theory to crime in Western cultures, but minimal research examines how the theory operates within Eastern cultures. This study seeks to fill this gap through an examination of the efficacy of the theory in addressing criminal offending within Seoul, South Korea. Specifically, we examine three sets of variables: structural characteristics of neighborhoods (i.e., ethnic heterogeneity, poverty, SES, and residential mobility), intervening factors (i.e., family disruption and collective efficacy), and competing theoretical indicators (i.e., business and individual opportunities). The selection of variables is informed by prior research on social disorganization and routine activities. Latent growth curve models showed that the effects of ethnic heterogeneity, family disruption, business and individual opportunity exhibit the predicted effects on violent crime rates. The results for SES, poverty, residential mobility, and collective efficacy factors are inconsistent with findings consistently found in Western settings. These findings do not suggest that social disorganization theory is not generalizable; rather they suggest that it is a viable explanation of violent crime in different contexts after considering the specific cultural variations within the study area.



Social ecology, Criminology—Cross-cultural studies, Criminology—Longitudinal studies, Crime—Sociological aspects, Structural equation modeling, Seoul (Korea)


©2018 The Author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Eugene McDermott Library. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.