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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 187

initiated an international program to compare the quality of democratic governance in terms of human rights, free and fair elections, and rule by the will of the people.10

All of these assessments attempt to determine how well political regimes perform as democracies rather than as liberal democracies. As a consequence, none of the efforts noted above offer a comprehensive and balanced assessment of the democracies’ performances as liberal democracies, which feature political freedom, citizen equality, accountability of popularly elected leaders to the electorate, the rule of law, and responsiveness of political leaders and governmental officials to the mass citizenry. How much progress did third-wave democracies make in their march toward liberal democracy? What particular properties or
qualities of liberal democracy do they most lack? To address these and other related questions, this study of Korea offers and tests a model for assessing liberal democratic development from the perspective of ordinary citizens.

Conceptualization and Measurement

Universal adult suffrage, free and fair elections, multiparty competition, and inter-party alternation in power are the most fundamental characteristics of all democracies.11 The successful establishment of these democratic institutions alone, however, does not guarantee the creation of liberal democracy. It merely creates electoral democracy, a regime that allows the citizens to take part in free and competitive electoral contests. What more has to be done in order to transform an electoral democracy into a liberal democracy? What distinguishes liberal democracy from illiberal democracy? What are the distinguishing characteristics of liberal democracy? What are its relative merits and demerits? These questions have been extensively debated in the theoretical and empirical literature on third-wave democracies.12

Conceptually, this study of new democracies in Korea and Taiwan is based on the notion of democracy as a developmental phenomenon.13 Specifically, it is viewed as a phenomenon that evolves multi-dimensionally in phases over time.14 In the first phase, nondemocratic rule gives way to an electoral democracy featuring free, fair, and competitive elections. In the second . . . . . /continued

11. Huntington, 1991; Przeworski et al., 2000.
12. Diamond, 1999; Kratnycky, 1999; O’Donnell, 1996, 1999b; Plattner, 1997; Zakaria, 1997; 2003.
13. Sklar, 1987.
14. Dahl, 1971; Diamond, 2003; Rose and Shin, 2001.
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