Elites and Political Power in South Korea
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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.
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Chapter 1: Korea and the Korean Government

Byong-Man Ahn


INTRODUCTION Korea is marked by an exceptionally long historical continuity from the ephemeral existence of the mighty continental powers adjacent to it. Despite the glory of its history and the ethnic unity that it demonstrated against nomadic marauders, today’s Korea remains ignominiously divided into two halves, as if they had never been the bickering brothers in the family of nations. With the northern half labeled as an enigmatic and unpredictable state, South Korea is vigorously seeking to enhance its status, breaking with the hallmark of the developing countries and the Third World. Since the liberation in l945, South Korea has undergone a series of changes that have shaped the structural characteristics of the Korean government. To comprehend the recent transformation of the Korean government, it is necessary to place Korea in the context of global trends, in order hopefully to develop an objective understanding of it through comparative perspective. This chapter examines how Korea has been transformed in the global context, where it stands in terms of social and economic development and what are the geopolitical implications for Korea in the evolving world. Grasping how the government’s role has changed in relation to civil society is expected to provide the key to understanding the characteristics of political power. KOREA IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT Change and Preservation The advanced technology of transportation and communication is reducing the world into an unfenced neighborhood. McLuhan saw television as ‘the instrument that would bring about the global village’.1 The rapidly advancing frontier of satellite,...

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