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 11: The Dynamics within the Administrative System

Byong-Man Ahn


INTRODUCTION The terms, ‘centralization’, antithetical to ‘decentralization’, entail discussion on the locus of power, that is, where power is vested between the two. If the power of decision-making is vested within the summit of the governmental pyramid, it pertains to power centralization. On the other hand, the local authorities empowered to make decisions on local affairs represent the case of power decentralization. Power centralization takes its meaning in relation to power decentralization. These are relative concepts that accept the reality that there is no absolute definition of power centralization or decentralization. The locus of power is found somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes and it is possible to imagine cases where power is tilted toward either ‘centralized’ or ‘decentralized’ depending on either side of a balancing scale.1 It is worthwhile examining the rationale of each pattern, focusing on the institutional efficacy each claims to have, and factors that are at work to influence the locus of power in the Korean administrative system. The balancing of power between the central and local administrative authorities has enjoyed robust topicality among scholars and practitioners since the liberation. It is more often employed as a yardstick to measure the development stage of a nation towards a pluralistic, democratic society. The development of administrative systems highlights a progressive shifting of power from the central to local authorities. Attendant to modernization is the emergence of neo-centralism to be countered by neo-decentralism, and the ensuing chaos is characteristic of advanced societies. Most developing countries remain...

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