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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 206

endorsed the separation of powers by disagreeing with the statement, “When judges decide important cases, they should accept the view of the executive branch.”A significantly smaller majority (54%) endorsed legislative checks on the executive branch by disagreeing with the statement, “If the government is constantly checked by the legislature, it cannot possibly accomplish great things.”Yet those who voiced liberal responses to both of these questions constitute less than two-fifths (38%) of the Korean electorate. Obviously many Koreans who accept the liberal principle of constitutional rule nevertheless favor a powerful presidency instead of separation of powers.

A much smaller minority, just one-quarter (25%), favor two liberal democratic values, political freedom, and equal rights. More than three-fifths (62%) endorsed political freedom, agreeing with the statement, “A political leader should tolerate the views of those who challenge his political ideals.”One-half (50%) embraced the value of minority rights, disagreeing with the statement, “As long as a political leader enjoys majority support, he should implement his own agenda and disregard the view of the minority.”Those who did not embrace both political freedom and minority rights constitute a large majority of three-quarters (75%).

The proportion of Koreans who fully favor liberal democratic governance varies considerably across the three dimensions of such that we included on the survey. A substantial majority of more than three-fifths (63%) fully favor the rule of law. In sharp contrast, a minority of less than two-fifths (38%) favors limited government by embracing both the principle of independent judiciary the principles of checks and balances. An even smaller minority of one-quarter (25%) fully endorses the values of political freedom and equal rights. It is evident that the Korean people have not evenly internalized the important norms of liberal democracy. Beyond the realm of rule by law, they remain more uncommitted than committed to liberal democracy.

In Figure 2, [p207] we explore the overall commitment by Koreans to liberal democracy by counting their pro-liberal responses to the six separate questions discussed above. Those who voiced such responses to all six questions constitute less than one-tenth (9%). Three times as many (27%) expressed pro-liberal responses to five of the six questions. Thus, less than two-fifths (36%) are fully or nearly fully committed to liberal democracy. Slightly less than one-half (47%) is moderately committed to liberal democracy with pro-liberal responses to three or four of the six questions. Those who are completely uncommitted or barely committed to it, on the other hand, make up much less than one-fifth (16%). According to the mean score reported in Figure 2, the average Korean

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