Like in many other states worldwide, democracy is in trouble in South Korea, entering a state of regression in the past decade, barely thirty years after its emergence in 1987. The society that recently had ordinary citizens leading “candlelight protests” demanding the impeachment of Park Geun-hye in 2016-17 has become polarized amid an upsurge of populism, driven by persistent structural inequalities, globalization, and the rise of the information society.
The symptoms of democratic decline are increasingly hard to miss: political opponents are demonized, democratic norms are eroded, and the independence of the courts is whittled away. Perhaps most disturbing is that this all takes place under a government dominated by former pro-democracy activists.
The contributors to this volume trace the sources of illiberalism in today’s Korea; examine how political polarization is plaguing its party system; discuss how civil society and the courts have become politicized; look at the roles of inequality, education, and social media in the country’s democratic decline; and consider how illiberalism has affected Korea’s foreign policy.
Korea’s Democratic Decay: Worrisome Trends and Pressing Challenges
Gi-Wook Shin and Ho-Ki Kim
1. Why Is Korean Democracy Majoritarian but Not Liberal?
2. Uses and Misuses of Nationalism in the Democratic Politics of Korea
3. The Weakness of Party Politics and Rise of Populism in Korea
4. The Politicization of Civil Society: No Longer Watchdogs of Power, Former Democratic Activists Are Becoming New Authoritarian Leaders
5. The Politicization of the Judiciary in Korea: Challenges in Maintaining the Balance of Power
6. Two Divergences in Korea’s Economy and Democracy: Regional and Generational Disparities
Jun-Ho Jeong and Il-Young Lee
7. Democracy and the Educational System in Korea
8. Social Media and the Salience of Polarization in Korea
Yong Suk Lee
9. Illiberalism in Korean Foreign Policy
10. The Democratic Recession: A Global and Comparative Perspective
Korea’s 2022 Presidential Election: Populism in the Post-Truth Era
Ho-Ki Kim and Gi-Wook Shin
To celebrate the publication of South Korea's Democracy in Crisis, APARC held a book launch seminar in Seoul on June 14, 2022. The event received extensive coverage in Korean media, including the following: