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 9: The Ruling Elites

Byong-Man Ahn


INTRODUCTION Since liberation in 1948, numerous ruling elites have paraded across the stages of bureaucracy and politics. They were burdened with state affairs, including the formulation, planning and implementation of policies. They were the chief agents responsible for decisions that affected the state’s fate. The earlier batches of elites, some still vivid in our memories for what appeared to be an invincible grip on power, have long since passed into oblivion and new generations took their places. The lapse of 50 years offers a timely occasion to examine how the generational change of the ruling elite has taken place in relation to the social and political milieu that formed temporal characteristics. The ruling elite is broadly defined as those occupying leadership positions in the three branches of power, namely, the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. Studies on the ruling elite that have been conducted previously connoted a broad concept that included the National Assemblymen,1 top bureaucrats of the executive branch,2 justices of the Supreme Court3 and other politicians held to affect the process of legislation.4 Moreover, any study that cuts across the different stages of political development and brings the ruling elite of various regimes into a single purview is virtually non existent.5 Having defined the ruling elite as comprising the three branches of power, this study attempts to advance temporary characteristics of the ruling elite, to detect any structural changes presumably related to the change of power, and to define the bureaucratic ethos characteristic of each regime....

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