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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 190

Table 1 reports the mean rating on the 10-point scale and the percentages of respondents falling into each of the four categories of regime perceptions. The percentages reported in the table clearly reveal that the Korean people do view the current regime as a democracy. More than four out of five Koreans (82%) rated the current regime as democratic by placing it at 6 or above on the scale. Of these Koreans, an overwhelming majority (80%) rated it as a limited democracy by placing it at 6, 7, or 8. The current regime’s ratings averaged 6.5, a figure that is just one point above the scale’s midpoint of 5.5. This mean and these percentage ratings make it clear that the Korean people tend to perceive their current regime to be far from fully democratic. Despite a decade of democratic rule led by two long-time leaders of the democracy movement in Korea, Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung, the people rate the country as a partial or limited democracy.

The second item we asked in the EAB survey was “On the whole, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the way democracy works in our country?” As in the perception of regime character, a majority replied positively (see Table 2)

Regime types
Korea (%)
Hard authoritarianism
Soft authoritarianism
Limited democracy
Advanced democracy
Mean on 10-point scale)
Table 1 Authoritarian and Democratic Perceptions of the Current Regime
Source: 2003 East Asia Barometer survey conducted in Korea.
Korea (%)
Very satisfied
Somewhat satisfied
Somewhat dissatisfied
Very dissatisfied
Table 2 Levels of Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction with the Performance of the
Current Regime as a Democracy
Source: 2003 East Asia Barometer survey conducted in Korea.
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