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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 189

In the first wave of EAB survey conducted in Korea,17 a pair of questions was asked to ascertain ordinary citizens’ views on the overall democratic quality of their current regime. Additionally, in the Korean survey a pair of questions was asked to determine the extent to which ordinary citizens perceive that their political system has achieved each of these five properties of liberal democracy. Appendix B lists these and some other related questions. Responses to the questions, when considered together, allow us to assess and to compare the general, as well as liberal, qualities of democracy in Korea.

The General Quality of Democracy

More than fifteen years have passed since Korea began formal transitions to democracy. How much progress has been made in transforming its previously authoritarian rule into a representative democracy? How well does the existing regime perform as a representative democracy? These are chosen as the central questions to be addressed in ascertaining the general quality of democracy in Korea. Underlying this general notion of democratic quality is the assumption that “how democratic a country is reflects the degree to which it approximates perfect democracy”.18

From the EAB survey conducted in Korea during the month of February 2003, we selected two separate items focusing on the overall quality of each one’s democratic performance. The first item revealed where the people perceived their current regimes stood on allowing every adult citizen to elect national and local leaders in free and competitive elections. Specifically, the EAB survey asked respondents to rate this characteristic of their current regimes on a 10-point scale where a score of 1 means “complete dictatorship” and a score of 10“ complete democracy.”The scores reported on this scale were collapsed into four categories: (1) hard authoritarianism (1 and 2); (2) soft authoritarianism (3, 4 and 5); (3) limited democracy (6, 7 and 8); and (4) advanced democracy (9 and 10).


17. This survey was implemented by the Garam Research during February 2003. The pollster selected a national sample of 1,500 Korean voters and its trained interviewers conducted face-to-face interviews with all those selected voters. The sample was selected to represent the population of Korea age 20 and over according to the method of a stratified probability sampling based on the principle of the probability proportionate to size. Further technical details can be found in Appendix A. See also the Garam (2003) and the EAB project website:

18. Lijphart, 1999: 278. 15 16

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