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The Formation of Democracy in South Korea

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Since South Korea’s shift to democracy in 1987, their political and economic development has been able to grow rapidly. Presidential elections allowed political liberation and individual freedoms to become a focus of the government. Some of these changes were seen with the different presidential elections that were lasting approximately five years each. Kim Dae-Jung was president from 1998 to 2003, and his presidency saw great power shifts in different regions which allowed the country to align their goals among different regions and become more democratic as a whole. 

The Roh government stretched from 2003-2008. Along with the National Assembly, the government worked to become more accountable for the public’s welfare. The people worked to create a better monitoring system to keep public officials and assemblymen to ensure that they are representing the public’s interest and observing their duties correctly. As changes were made in the government, major overhauls were being made in the military as well. The military was fully depoliticized and the history of former generals seizing the presidency was denounced. To show full cooperation with the new plans being made for the government, past actions of former presidents were investigated, and two presidents were convicted and sent to prison for their wrongdoings while in power. 

Both the military and government officials gained more public trust as they became more progressive and focused on the people they were ultimately serving. When the presidential election was held in 2007 for the next term, there were four key developments that helped further shape South Korea’s democratic government. Setting term lengths and limits allowed presidential turnover to create more responsible and trustworthy leaders was the first change that needed to be made. Those running the government knew that there were new checks and balances in place to ensure that a military-controlled government would not return. Secondly, the change in leadership allowed for the inclusion of leftists and progressives. These new ideas that were brought in allowed for a flexible, open, and more liberal political system. South Korean citizens had a bigger voice in the government, and new ways of thinking were introduced. 

As changes continued, elite pact-making was introduced to create settlements and agreements between political factions and figureheads. This third change helped smooth transitions between fractured local governments that had fundamentally different ideologies and principles. As these transitions settled, the last major change of government consolidation allowed for a more unified front across the county. The people were heard, and new ideas were taking root in a country that was left demolished after the division of Korea during the Second World War. A modern transformation of the government and military allowed many changes to take hold in South Korea. 

Traditional values placed higher importance on respect for authority and hierarchy than anything else. As transitions take place, old traditions are giving way to new ideals valuing individual freedoms and equality. Women and minority groups, such as the disabled and homosexuals, are gaining more support and conscious efforts to improve their rights. While South Korea may be behind the curve compared to most advanced and democratic nations, huge strides are being made toward political liberalization. In 1998, the Asian financial crisis called for the overhaul of South Korea’s big businesses and financial companies. These reforms allowed for enhanced transparency in corporate governance and financial accountability, as their economic growth relied heavily on their exports. 

South Korea’s size, lack of natural resources, and small domestic consumer market pushed them to shift from labor-intensive work to a more capital and technology-based market. Economic ties were reestablished with North Korea after their division during World War II in 1988. However, the consistent and severe conflict between the two countries led to severing the economic ties that had been created. The source of South Korea’s largest economy came from their beginnings in electronic manufacturing. In 1980, South Korea became the world’s sixth largest manufacturer of electronic goods through the establishment of Samsung in Seoul. Becoming a member of world trade organizations was a huge economic step forward, as South Korea can sign free trade agreements with other countries, and the United States is their second largest export market.

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The Formation of Democracy in South Korea. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from
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