Seminar: How Democratic Is Korean Democracy? Extra-Parliamentary Politics in Comparative Perspective


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Brown Bag Seminar by POSCO Visiting Fellow Wonik Kim

When: May 22 2014 - 12:00pm until May 22 2014 - 1:00pm
Where: John A. Burns Hall, Room #3012, East-West Center

Practically everywhere one looks, from social science monographs to political speeches, the concept of "civil society" is in vogue. South Korea is no exception. A flourishing civil society in Korea is considered to have helped bring down the dictatorship. Yet, Korea has the smallest welfare state among advanced capitalist countries, and an increasing number of people are exposed to market-related social risks under hyper-globalization. The conventional view suggests that Korea's absence of a decent social safety net must be attributed to its weak civil society. Counter to this conventional wisdom, I argue that an excessively strong civil society in Korea has actually helped scuttled the consolidation of democracy under which various societal demands can be materialized. While Korean democracy has made gradual progress in establishing and sustaining competitive elections since the 1987 democratic transition, it has systematically failed to produce any meaningful social welfare provision. Korean democracy is minimalist par excellence but devoid of socioeconomic substances. The gap between this relatively long practice of formal democracy and little progress in achieving substantive democracy lies in the chronic lacuna of political representation, which stems from the disjointed dichotomy of weak party politics and strong movement politics, what I call extra-parliamentary politics.

Wonik Kim is Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Director of the International Studies Program at Louisiana State University. He specializes in comparative politics and political economy with particular emphasis in East Asia. His research focuses on globalization, the politics of socioeconomic development, and state-society relations. He is currently working on a book project about the history of capitalism in East Asia. Dr. Kim received his Ph. D. from New York University.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Cynthia Wasa Nakachi
Phone: 808.944.7439
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