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
dates agree with voters for the winning candidate that the election was conducted fairly and its outcome is satisfactory. When such opposing camps of the electorate express agreement about an unfair and unsatisfactory election, that regime is unmasked as an electoral democracy of low quality. In other situations, it becomes merely a medium-quality electoral democracy.
The third, final set of ideas focuses on the question of how well a democratic regime performs as a liberal democracy. The essential properties of a liberal democracy are its political freedom, citizen equality, accountability of popularly elected leaders to the electorate, the rule of law, and responsiveness of political leaders and governmental officials to the mass citizenry. We propose that a democracy becomes a high-quality liberal democracy when ordinary citizens experience all of these properties. A liberal democracy of medium quality is one in which the people experience most of them. When they experience fewer than most of these five properties, we regard the regime as a liberal democracy of low quality.
We have tested these three sets of new ideas with the first wave of the EAB survey conducted in Korea. Analysis of this survey reveals that the perceived quality of democracy is a multi-dimensional subjective phenomenon. Moreover, collective perceptions of quality vary a great deal from one dimension to another dimension and from one domain to another domain even within the same dimension. We found that the quality of a democratic regime, especially as a liberal democracy, depends on both a popular demand for and an elite supply of these essential properties. That balance of high supply and high demand may constitute the most intractable task of democratization. Our ideas and findings with respect to the contours and dynamics of experiencing democratic regime quality should be subjected to further scrutiny by comparisons with findings from the mass publics of new democracies in other regions.
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