Top-Down Democracy in South Korea
- PUBLISHED: April 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Korea, Politics
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 216 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 4 b&w illus., 5 tables
- SERIES: Korean Studies of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
- ISBN: 9780295745473
While popular movements in South Korea rightly grab the headlines for forcing political change and holding leaders to account, those movements are only part of the story of the construction and practice of democracy. In Top-Down Democracy in South Korea, Erik Mobrand documents another part – the elite-led design and management of electoral and party institutions. Even as the country left authoritarian rule behind, elites have responded to freer and fairer elections by entrenching rather than abandoning exclusionary practices and forms of party organization.
Exploring South Korea’s political development from 1945 through the end of dictatorship in the 1980s and into the twenty-first century, Mobrand challenges the view that the origins of the postauthoritarian political system lie in a series of popular movements that eventually undid repression. He argues that we should think about democratization not as the establishment of an entirely new system, but as the subtle blending of new formal rules with earlier authority structures, political institutions, and legitimizing norms.
Authors & Contributors
Erik Mobrand is associate professor in the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.
Mobrand's study not only provides an explanation of why Korea's top-down democracy is the way it is, but also generates questions for future research on authoritarian legacies, democratic consolidation, and varieties of democracy.- Pacific Affairs
[A] concise, compelling, and original examination.- Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Top-Down Democracy in South Korea debunks the notion of a bottom-up civil-society activation of transition and an overthrow of old systems of governance.- Katharine H. S. Moon, professor of political science, Wellesley College
Mobrand argues that South Korea’s political parties effectively engage in ‘electoral management’ rather than incorporating popular demands and opening the parties as mass vehicles of representation. He provides a compelling analysis of political parties and democracy in the Republic of Korea and goes further in showing why the South Korean case is so important to our understanding of democracy.- Robert Pekkanen, coauthor of The Rise and Fall of Japan's LDP: Political Party Organizations as Historical Institutions