Liberalization In South Korea

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South Korea has shown dramatic growth in the past decades quickly rising from third to first world in a span of a few decades. Often being dubbed a miracle, it is now the 13th largest economy in the world with renowned brands such as Samsung that is comparable to United State’s Apple. However, her success did not come easy. South Korea, henceforth Korea, has experienced a difficult transition to democracy after the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Liberalization did not occur until the 1987 June Democratic Uprising, yet today; democracy in South Korea operates more efficiently compared to any other Third World countries .

This paper would thus be exploring the factors that have led to Korea’s democratization with three key focuses.
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After Park Chung Hee seized power via a military takeover, his regime placed heavy emphasis on strategies that advance economic growth. Economic growth kicked off when the inaugural Five Year Economic Development Plan that stemmed from export-oriented industrialization was successfully carried out . Under Park’s authoritarian regime, Korea experienced a vast economic growth, which eventually contributed to her democratization. Park placed a great emphasis on the argument that without economic revolution, a country would not be able to democratize .

There is an observable relationship between economic development and the emergence of democracy in Korea during the 1980s. The rapid economic development enabled the rise of the working middle classes and hence an increased income gap. Furthermore, the progressive levels of resource focused (capital and knowledge) industrialisation resulted in high pluralism, which inevitably led citizens to question the regime’s legitimacy . The “societal disequilibrium” that Koreans experienced led to a sense of suppression and dissatisfaction, which ultimately provoked a revolution led by the middle
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As the Cold War intensified after nationwide liberation, Koreans experienced the ideological and political conflicts and subsequently these experiences created a strong anti-communist Korea. Initially, the Reagan administration did not pressure Korea to democratize, choosing build a relationship with the focus on the common support of anti-communist governments, both authoritarian and democratic. As a result, Reagan developed a sense of trust with Chun Doo Hwan . Subsequently Reagan’s administration began to place greater emphasis universal democracy, leading to a greater urge for the Korean government to amend their constitution .

These pressures were both public and private. External public pressure is critical in determining the actions of relevant stakeholders, especially as it affects the strength of reformers. As tactical reasons deter US from using economic and military sanctions to encourage liberalization, the power of verbal sanctions should not be underestimated. Public statements have been successfully utilized in Korea to exert influence
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