Elites and Political Power in South Korea

Elites and Political Power in South Korea

Byong-Man Ahn

In Elites and Political Power in South Korea, Byong-Man Ahn examines problems related to Korea’s political and ruling systems. He examines the Korean government in a global context and explores Korea’s cultural and political matrix. The author goes on to analyze political power, political parties and the elites in terms of their contribution to the ongoing cycle of dominance. An understanding of Korean government is developed, with particular attention paid to the unique pattern of its administrative system vis-à-vis those of other systems.

Preface

Byong-Man Ahn

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics

Extract

The definition of ‘government’ seems to elude understanding by the humans who invented it. What is meant by ‘government’ varies, as demonstrated by sages and scholars who have ever attempted to define it in simple terms. Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle referred to the government as ‘the helmsman’ in the frame that views the nation as ‘a ship’. T. Lowi has gone to extremes to associate it with ‘conquest’, though it seems a bit farfetched. Gregory Henderson, referring to a particular cultural matrix of Korea, echoed ‘vortex’, which denotes ‘a powerful, upward-sucking force active throughout the culture’. Examining the eight Republics that have woven the recent political history of South Korea since the liberation, I term it ‘the cycle of domineering’. The way in which each Republic has operated, invariably invites reference to ‘particularity’, as expressed in a particular person, a particular group, or a particular coterie surrounding it. When a domineering group split into rivaling factions, the Republic collapsed, with a new one following and perpetuating the vicious cycle of domineering. Dominance by a particular group in power to the virtual exclusion of others, subject to demise if a brake was put on ‘running alone’, was the only way to keep a particular group in power. Is the vicious cycle of domineering an outgrowth of Korea’s native pattern of political culture? Is it characteristic of the developing countries in their quest for political stability and economic growth? Or is it the combination of the two? Seeking answers...