Democracy in Korea and East Asia
South Korean democracy is regarded as a successful example for other new democracies. Unfortunately, Korean politics have been experiencing continuous confrontation, corruption scandals, poor performance, and resultant distrust of politics. Three democratically elected Korean presidents failed to meet the expectations of the Korean people. Each government promised bold reforms but failed to bring about successful results. Each president became a lame duck in less than two years. Roh Moo Hyun, the current Korean president, is facing the same challenges. It appears that the country has been experiencing a chronic leadership crisis. Other new Asian democracies have suffered from similar problems, especially after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. In recent years, Philippine and Indonesian presidents were forced to resign. The Chen Shui-Bian government of Taiwan is also experiencing difficulties with democratic consolidation. After an early wave of democratic transition in Korea and other Asian nations, optimism prevailed. But now, the trials and errors of democratically elected governments in the region have heighten pessimism about democracy in the region. Are these phenomena related to the economic difficulties after the 1997 financial crisis? Or do they reflect problems within their politics? What are the prospects for Korean, Taiwanese or other Asian democracies? More detailed studies of Korean democracy and comparative studies of the region's other democracies would be useful to answer these questions. POSCO visiting fellows are encouraged to focus on the development of Korean democracy and to pursue comparative studies between Korean and other democracies.