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Title: The emergence of the merit-based bureaucracy and the formation of the developmental state : the case of South Korea in a historical perspective
Author: Park, Sooyoung
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 6252
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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This research has analyzed how the institutions of the merit-based bureaucratic system in the Korean Government changed from 1948 to 1963, applying the gradual institutional change theory of Mahoney and Thelen (2010). Though copious research has been produced on Korean economic development, little analysis has been made on the emergence of the Korean developmental state. This research aimed to fill in the analytical gap by examining how effective bureaucratic institutions was established in the Korean developmental state to draw out implications for the institutional change theory as well as the discussion on the developmental sate and state capacity. This research has found that the merit-based bureaucratic institutions of the Korean Government positively changed in a piecemeal approach from 1948 to 1963, though once disturbed from 1955 to 1959. Contrary to the existing literature, this research also has found that the institutional setting for the merit-based bureaucracy was set from the very beginning of the Syngman Rhee Administration; however, the selective implementation and enforcement of the rules in the Syngman Rhee period hindered the Weberian bureaucracy. This research has, therefore, drawn out that for positive institutional change, the role of the change agents is critical especially the vertical chain of reformative leadership and capable practitioners. The low level of opposition is beneficial for not only positive but also negative change. In the end, in the case of Korea, the initially ambiguous institutions provided the actors with considerable discretion to manipulate or misuse rules. As a result of the institutional reform the rules and regulations became detailed reducing the gap between what the rules say and how the rules are implemented. The empirical tests of this research have confirmed the basic assumptions of the gradual institutional change theory of Mahoney and Thelen (2010). Firstly, the empirical results have shown that the institutional change has more to do with a piecemeal internal process than to do with any external shock or event. Secondly, the gap between the existence and the enforcement of an institution has also been proved valid. Thirdly, the empirical tests have confirmed the influence of three change factors producing different types of change in the theory. Based on the empirical findings, this research has identified important implications for the institutional change theory with three key areas for improvement. The first is the validity of the three modes of change in the theory. The test has identified the need to address the different magnitudes of the three factors affecting change. This research has also identified the need to clarify the definition of gradualness and the concept of the change agents to solidify the theory. This research has also enriched the discussion on the developmental state and state capacity by identifying the limitations of the merit-based institution in different contexts. Based on the analysis, this research has drawn out four key lessons for developing countries and for the donors: the importance of the enforcement of rules; the synchronized reform coalition between committed leadership and competent practitioners; the importance of understanding local contexts; and the relationship between dictatorship and development. By analyzing the emergence of the bureaucratic institutions, this research has not only broadened our understanding of development and state capacity but also presented a practical policy solution to overcome the persistent state of incapacity in the developing countries today.
Supervisor: Jacoby, Tim; Kang, Nahee Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Merit-Based Bureaucracy ; Developmental State ; State Formation ; State Building ; Institutional Change ; Historical Institutionalism