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Title: The Limits of Democracy : The articulation of democracy and anti-communism in South Korea (1945-1972)
Author: Lee, Seoungwon
ISNI:       0000 0004 2669 360X
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis offers a discursive analysis of 'anti-communist democracy' and the political dynamics of its rise and fall in the contemporary history ~f South Korean politics. Laclau's non-essentialist discourse theory and reinterpretation of the Gramscian concept of hegemony raises the importance of hegemonic practice and the necessity of a deep understanding of particular political characteristics underpinning such practices in contemporary politics, in particular the South Korean politics. In the South Korean context, the notions of democracy and anti-communism have reflected an internalised form of the left-right conflicts of the Cold War. In other words, these heterogeneous ideologies have been incompatible and antagonisitic not only in their conceptual sense, but also in terms of the political context which has been determined within the historical particularities of South Korea. With the use of a historical and sociological approach dealing with the historical particularities of South Korea, this thesis explores how democracy and anti-communism, which are antagonistic and incompatible to each other, were ideologically configured into anti-communist democracy. Furthermore, this work studies 'antagonism' and 'incompatibility' in a fateful relation between democracy and anticommunism to examine the characteristics and limits of the South Korean democracy. This thesis focuses on the period from 1945 to 1972 and divides it into three parts: the period from the liberation from Japanese colonialism, through the failure of establishing an independent nation-state to the civil war (1945-1953); the period of the consolidation of an anti-communist regimented society in South Korea after the war and the April revolution (1953-1960); and the period of counter-revolution and the intensification of the reactionary politics in South Korea (1961-1972). Exploring this period, this thesis argues that the institutionalisation of democracy, vacillating between 'constitution' and 'subversion', is the product of the dynamics of a hegemonic practice deforming and reconstructing a political discourse of democracy. Furthermore, it tries to clarify that a hegemonic practice is a form of politics which attempts to configure different social elements in a particular order and to include some marginalised and excluded elements into certain meaningful field for the dissolution of the 'particular order and the construction of a new order. In this sense, democracy develops not by its internal mechanism, but by struggles between the existingruling power blocs and the 'democratic' forces which are excluded by the former. The process of these struggles is neither 'rational' nor 'institutional', but it produces memories of the bloody experiences of social exclusion, purges, fear and genocide, and inscribes them on the surface of political discourses articulated with the' signifier of 'democracy' and on the boundary of democracy. While a ruling bloc produces such memories to maintain the existing discursive order, the excluded groups from the order attempt to reconstruct a new democratic order by acknowledging themselves through hegemonic struggles. This thesis suggests some progressive tasks of the South Korean politics for the better democratisation such as the annulment of the National Security Law, the active peace building process on the Korean peninsula and the institutionalisation of economic democracy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Not available Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available