Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy
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Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy

Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho

This book documents the search for a workable model of democracy in Asia. It begins with two conceptual chapters that explore the role of electoral democracy as a governance mechanism in the light of other governance mechanisms, then reviews the various forms of Asian democracy, including those that many may consider to be in name rather than in substance, that have been practiced to date, and indicates where these models may have failed or succeeded. Underpinned by extensive case studies, valuable insights into governance and democracy in Asia – arguably one of the most fascinating and dynamic regions in the world – are provided.
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Chapter 10: A Long and Winding Road: Democratization in Korea

Brian Bridges


Brian Bridges The twentieth century was not an easy one for the Koreans. The traumas of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, the enduring mutual suspicions between the rival halves of Korea, and the resentment at foreign influences fed into both Korean nationalism and Korean politics. While, since 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea hereafter) has been ruled continuously by an authoritarian socialist dynasty, the Republic of Korea (South Korea hereafter) has had more than its fair share of political highs and lows. Rapid economic growth over the past four decades has significantly changed the nature of the South Korean economy, society and the people’s way of life, but the political development of the country has rarely seemed able to keep pace. The political history of South Korea is littered with authoritarian governments, violent overthrows of governments and, at least until the late 1980s, very brief and insubstantial periods of democracy. Since 1987, however, South Korea has been a functioning democracy, although not one without trials and tribulations. Democracy and democratic transitions have been the subject of much scholarly enquiry and varied definitions, but the starting point adopted here is the assumption that the basic reference points of democracy are electoral competition, political participation, equality, freedom, the rule of law and respect for human rights and that democratization refers to the process by which such a ‘democratic’ polity is established.1 Various scholars have attempted to locate South Korea within these general processes of democratization and democratic...

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