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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 193

each country. Did respondents to the EAB survey believe the election was conducted fairly? How satisfied or dissatisfied were they with its outcome? Responses to these two questions were analyzed across three categories of the respondents: (1) non-voters, i.e., those who did not take part in the election; (2) winners, those who voted for the winning candidate; and (3) losers, those who voted for losing candidates. Table 4 shows across these three categories the percentages of those who gave very positive to very negative responses.

When asked how fairly or unfairly the election was conducted, a large majority of the Korean people (86%) replied “very fair”(22%) or “somewhat fair”(64%). As expected, those who voted for Roh Moo Hyun, the winning candidate of the ruling party in the 2002 election, rated the fairness significantly more highly than those who voted for one of several losing candidates. Even among the latter, however, a substantial majority concurred with the former by agreeing that the election process was fair. As compared to 93 percent of the former, 70 percent of the latter rated it as a fair election. More significantly, one out of seven voters (14%) for the losing candidates rated it as a“ very fair”election.

When asked about the outcome of the election, a slightly smaller large majority (81%) expressed satisfaction with it. As compared to 96 percent who supported the winning candidate, 64 percent of voters for the losing candidates expressed at least some satisfaction with the outcome. Even among the Korean voters whose presidential candidate lost, more than three-fifths accepted the election of the candidate whom they did not support. Among those who did not participate in the election, more than four-fifths (81%) expressed satisfaction with the electoral outcome. Regardless of the nature of the role they played in the election, the Korean people did endorse its legitimacy as a means of electing their political leader.

To infer the overall quality of electoral democracy from the latest presidential election, we considered together the positive assessments of its process and outcome. Table 5 compares the proportions of winning and losing voters and non-voters who were fully positive about both the process and outcome, partially positive about either of those, and positive about neither of those. Those who were not at all positive about the last presidential election constitute relatively small minorities (9 percent of winning voters, 13 percent of non-voters and 17 percent). More significantly, those fully positive about the election constitute majorities in all three categories of the Korean electorate (92 percent of winning voters, 77 percent of non-voters and 59 percent of losing voters). The most common pattern among the Korean electorate is that winning and losing voters endorse the presidential election with majorities. From these findings, it . . . . /continued

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