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.

Chapter 4: Bureaucracy under the Colonial Rule

Byong-Man Ahn

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


COLONIAL EXPERIENCE AND TRADITIONAL POLITICAL CULTURE The opening of the door of the Chosun dynasty to the outside world in the nineteenth century brought new challenges to its traditional ruling system based on ‘invincible’ Confucianism, notably from an emerging power, Japan. Opening its eyes to the outside world shook the self-complacency of the secluded kingdom over its ideological underpinning of Confucianism that buttressed its ruling system, and stirred both the ruling class and populace toward a series of reformation movements – the abortive Kapshin Coup, peasants’ Tonghak (literally meaning Eastern learning) Movement, Kapo Reformation, Independent Club activities and so forth. All of these movements were not so much intended to break with the old system at all: rather, they might as well be viewed as an effort to preserve and protect the old system, with partial modifications made under the pressures of foreign powers calling for a fresh approach starting from scratch. By winning victories in hegemonic struggles with China and the Russian Empire, Japan cleared her path of obstacles to the colonialization of its once cultural mentor. This section attempts to fathom the depth of changes made in traditional bureaucratic culture under Japanese colonial rule.1 The perception of Japanese-induced changes reflects two viewpoints. One refers to the cultural backgrounds that the two nations have shaped toward sino-orientation under an overarching umbrella of Chinese influence. It was against this cultural background that Japan expected its pattern of ruling to find a built-in receptivity among Koreans. The identical cultural backgrounds notwithstanding, the...

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