South Korea's Democracy in Crisis: The Threats of Illiberalism, Populism, and Polarization

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Like in many other states worldwide, democracy is in trouble in South Korea, entering a state of regression in the past decade, barely thirty years after its emergence in 1987. The society that recently had ordinary citizens leading "candlelight protests" demanding the impeachment of Park Geun-hye in 2016-17 has become polarized amid an upsurge of populism, driven by persistent structural inequalities, globalization, and the rise of the information society.

The symptoms of democratic decline are increasingly hard to miss: political opponents are demonized, democratic norms are eroded, and the independence of the courts is whittled away. Perhaps most disturbing is that this all takes place under a government dominated by former pro-democracy activists.

The contributors to this volume trace the sources of illiberalism in today's Korea; examine how political polarization is plaguing its party system; discuss how civil society and the courts have become politicized; look at the roles of inequality, education, and social media in the country's democratic decline; and consider how illiberalism has affected Korea's foreign policy.

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Asia/Pacific Research Center, Div of The Institute for International Studies
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