CHAPTER 9
The Developmental State and Democratic
Consolidation in South Korea
C. S. Eliot Kang

Since the June 29 declaration in 1987, South Korea has passed some major milestones in its march toward becoming a liberal democracy.1 Today, South Koreans enjoy a level of political freedom that is without precedent in their country's history. Their young democracy has endured the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and has met an important test of successfully transferring power from a ruling party to a genuine opposition party. Nonetheless, the extent to which South Korea has consolidated its democracy is open to question. South Korea has successfully institutionalized and legitimized a democratic, constitutional electoral process, but it is still struggling to establish a responsive, accountable political order and an inclusive economic system.

In this chapter, I analyze how the institutional “drag” of the developmental state,2 forged during the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee, has impeded democratic consolidation.3 Effective in early stages of economic development, the collusive arrangement between the state and giant oligopolistic conglomerates, the chaebol, has proved not only economically inefficient and anticompetitive in the era of globalization,4 but also deeply entrenched and reform-resistant.

____________________
1
For a discussion on what constitutes a liberal democracy, see chapter 1 of Larry Diamond, Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
2
On the developmental state, see Alice H. Amsden, Asia's Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); Chalmers Johnson, MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925–75 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987); and Robert Wade, Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
3
On democratic consolidation, see Diamond, Developing Democracy, chapter 3.
4
Globalization is a complex process that is intensifying the levels of interaction and interconnectedness within and between states and societies. It is a multidimensional process that involves the intensification of economic, political, social, and cultural interconnectedness around the globe. See Samuel S. Kim's introduction to this work.

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