The state of democratic consolidation in Korea : decentralisation and participation in local politics 1988-1998
This thesis explores the democratisation process in Korea by dividing it into three stages, paying special attention to the local level and the involvement of women. The transition phase lasts from the liberalisation of an authoritarian regime to the introduction of a democratic constitution, 1985 to 1988 in the case of Korea. During the next phase, consolidation, democratic institutions have to established and democracy has to be accepted by the elite and the population alike. The last stage of democratisation is either a mature democracy or a failure. In order to assess the progress of democratic consolidation in Korea political participation at local level and decentralisation were studied. Mainly due to the prevailing strong influence of traditional political culture consolidation has made only slow progress in the last ten years. The distribution of power from the central to local government has been gradual. Local councils have been introduced but their influence on the executive is limited and they have yet to develop fully their potential to influence policies. Local assembly members are mostly highly educated, have a high family income and have been involved in civic groups for a longer time period. Citizens have been slow to use the new opportunities for participation. They have yet to adopt fully democratic attitudes that include active participation. Besides this attitudinal obstacle there remain problems for further increases in participants in the form of structural, financial and educational deficiencies. This affects in particular the involvement of women in politics who are hardly represented at all. Unless citizens take a more positive approach to participation in civil and political society the democratisation process in Korea will take a very long period of time.