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Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies. Vol. 5, No. 2. 2005.
2005 Academy of East Asian Studies. pp. 183-217
Appraising the Quality of Democracy in South Korea:
From the Perspectives of Ordinary Citizens and their Daily Experiences
by Doh Chull Shin, University of Missouri-Columbia &
Chong Min Park, Korea University

Page 185

democracy in Korea. What sort of democracy do the Korean people think its current regime is? What level of democratic quality does it display? We address these questions. The fourth section examines how well citizens believe their respective regime performs as an electoral democracy. The fifth section reports their assessments of their regime as a liberal democracy. To what extent do the Koreans think their recent regime has embodied the essential properties of liberal democracy? What particular properties do they perceive to be most and least lacking in the regime? The sixth section examines the distribution of liberal democratic properties across the various population segments and explores the issue of equity in democratic development. The seventh section explores the problems of liberal democratic development from the perspective of popular demand. The final section summarizes the three sets of new ideas we propose for a systematic assessment of democratic regime quality and highlights our survey research findings.

Prior Research

The quality of democracy has recently become a subject of increasing and widespread concern in policy circles and the scholarly community3. How well do democracies perform as governments by the people and for the people? What type of democratic regime is most likely to provide “kinder and gentler qualities of democracy”? What qualities of democracy do new democracies most lack? These questions have been raised in response to a growing sense of public discontentment with the democratic political process in both old and new democracies4.

In recent years, an increasing number of individual scholars and research institutions have attempted to address these questions by discerning the distinct qualities of democracy and distinguishing high-quality democracies from lowquality ones. In doing so, individual scholars and research institutions have employed a variety of political goals, principles, and values as criteria or standards for appraising the quality of democracy. The number of these criteria varies considerably from one study to another, as do the substantive characteristics or natures of the criteria. Yet, all the research thus far seeks to assess the extent to which political regimes actually embody generic values of democracy

3. Bhagwati, 1995; Commonwealth Countries of Pacific Island Countries, 2002; Court, 2002; Diamond, 1999; Coppedge, 1997; Requejo, 2001; Solt, 2001; Southall, 2001; UNDP, 2002; Weyland, 2001.

4. Bratton et al., 2003; Norris, 1999; Pharr and Putnam, 2000; Rose et al., 1998; Shin, 1999.

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