In this concise and engaging study, Sunhyuk Kim goes beyond conventional, elite-oriented theories of democratization to demonstrate how crucial civil society has been to democratic transition, democratic failure, and the recent, ongoing efforts to reform, deepen, and consolidate democracy in Korea. His systematic focus on the composition, goals, methods, breath, and unity of civil society actors, and their relations both to political society and to the state, in each of several distinct historical periods provides an analytical model that can fruitfully be applied to many other cases. Indeed, I wish we could have an equivalent historical analysis of every developing democracy.
What role did civil society play in Korea's recent democratization? How does the Korean case compare with cases from other regions of the world? What is the current status of Korean democratic consolidation? What are the prospects for Korean democracy? In December 1997, for the first time in the history of South Korea (hereafter Korea), an opposition candidate was elected to the presidency. Korea became the first new democracy in Asia where a horizontal transfer of power occurred through the electoral process. Sunhyuk Kim's study of democratization in Korea argues that the momentum for political change in Korea has consistently emanated from oppositional civil society rather than from the state. He develops a civil society paradigm and utilizes Korea’s three authoritarian breakdowns (only two of which resulted in democratic transitions) to illustrate the past and present influences of Korean civil society groups on authoritarian breakdowns, democratic transitions, and post-transition democratic consolidations. One of the first systematic attempts to apply a civil society framework to a democratizing country in East Asia, The Politics of Democratization in Korea will be of use to political scientists and advanced undergraduate and graduate students working in comparative politics, political theory, East Asian politics, and the politics of democratization.
This study offers the most dynamic and illuminating account of Korean democratization in comparative and historical perspectives. It is also one of a few sophisticated analyses of the shifting roles civil society groups have played in the third wave of global democratization.
After so much speculation about civil society, finally a systematic study of its cumulative impact across three 'episodes' of democratization in a single country. If that were not enough, Kim challenges the conventional wisdom that recent regime changes have been guided by elite machinations 'from above' by demonstrating the crucial role of popular and civic mobilization 'from below' in the case of South Korea.
Sunhyuk Kim's The Politics of Democratization in Korea makes an important contribution to the literature on democratization in Asia. The chapters on civil society provide the most thorough summary of that literature published to date, and Kim uses them to make a compelling argument on Korea's long road to democracy. The most innovative aspect of the study is the placement of ordinary citizens rather than political elites at the center of the story. It deserves a broad reading by those interested in Asian politics, civil society, and democratization.
The Politics of Democratization in Korea demonstrates a very good grasp of the literatures on democratization and civil society, and is very firmly grounded in a close and detailed knowledge of the Korean case. An excellent choice for courses in Korean politics and history.
Kim adds a new critique [of South Korean politics] by concentrating on one particular aspect, the emergence of a civil society, which, he argues, was not just one but 'the most crucial' variable in the process of democratization in Korea. . . . He provides interesting detail, not available elsewhere in such an accessible form in English, on the diversity in types and aims of the civil society groups at different phases of Korea's post-1948 political evolution. . . . This volume covers a wide range of inter-related themes, examining the institutional shallowness of political parties, the pervasive influence of regionalism, the linkages between democratization and economic collapse and subsequent reform, and the subtle alterations in the state-society and state-business nexuses.
Kim's clear and detailed exploration of recent Korean political history is a welcome addition to the voluminous literature on democratization and civil society. . . . The book includes a detailed bibliography of Korean- and English-language sources. Recommended for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.
This is a methodically researched and well-focused study . . . timely and valuable . . . a must-read for scholars and advanced students interested in civil society and democratization in Korea.
Sunhyuk Kim is an assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of Southern California. From 1994 to 1996, he was a MacArthur fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Kim has published numerous articles on Korean politics in journals such as Democratization, Asian Survey, Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, Asian Perspective, and Korea Journal, and has contributed to a number of edited collections. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University.