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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 198

to follow rather than to break laws. About the National Assembly, less than onefifth (17%) replied that it tends to follow rather than to break laws. It is notable that more than 95 percent viewed neither of these two most important institutions of representative democracy as fully law-abiding, and only 4 percent viewed even one of them as such. Most notable is that less than 1 percent (0.3 percent; four out of 1,500 respondents) rated both institutions as fully law-abiding.

Ratings of the two institutions jointed in a 7-point index measuring conformity to the rule of law in the policymaking process. A score of 1 indicates the perception that laws and rules are not observed at all while a score of 7 represents the perception that they are observed very well. The mean score and percentage ratings are reported in Table 6. Ratings of the two democratically elected institutions averaged 3.3, which is significantly lower than the midpoint of the scale. Those reporting scores below the midpoint number more than four times as many as those reporting scores above it (55% versus 13%). These mean and percentage ratings make it clear that the Korean people do not regard the presidency and the National Assembly as law-abiding institutions.

To determine the extent to which all governmental officials, specifically civil servants, abide by the rules and procedures of democratic politics, the EAB survey asked another pair of questions concerning the extent of corrupt practices by local and national governmental officials. The survey asked respondents to estimate the extent of official corruption, choosing one of four response categories about how many officials were corrupt: (1) hardly anyone; (2) only some of them; (3) most of them; and (4) almost everyone. The choice of the first two categories was considered indicative of the view that government officials tend to be law-abiding and untarnished by corruption. The choice of the last two categories was deemed evidential of perceptions that they do engage in corrupt and illegal practices.

When asked about the extent of corruption among those officials at the national level of government, nearly one-half (47%) perceived corruption in “almost everyone”(9%) and “most”(38%) of the people working on that level. About the officials working for local governments, three-sevenths (44%) gave the same reply: “almost everyone”(8%) and “most”(36%). Considering responses to the two questions together, more than one-third (35%) perceived corruption among almost all the national and local government officials. In addition, one-fifth (21%) perceived almost everyone or most officials working in either the national or local government as corrupt. A substantial minority (44%) did not perceive almost everyone or most of either local or national government officials to be corrupt.

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