This paper considers the process of successful transition from a military dictatorship regime to a democratic led nation in South Korea. It attempts to study that process and give an explanation to success of that transition, that brought economic prosperity to the country.
The history of the path to democracy in South Korea began in the year 1945 when the country liberated itself from colonial rule by the Japanese. Economic development was envisaged to pick soon after. However, the postcolonial period saw a shift from Japanese led colonial leadership to an authoritarian rule, also referred to as a strong state. This shift was mostly fuelled by political divisions in the period after liberalization and the Korean War.
The continued authoritarian rule elicited country wide protests, which continued to gain support and momentum as the strong state ideology also continued to widen and deepen. The protests were in favor of democratization, with the protestors demanding the adoption of democracy in governance, and consequently formed a resistance union, called the democratization movement’s resistance. Increased confrontations and resultant clashes between the pro democracy and the authoritarian rule parties led to the start of the journey to democracy which was characterized by a series of movements. These include the 1960 revolution which took place on April 19th, the uprising of 1980 popularly known as the Gwangju Popular Uprising, and lastly the 1987 June Democratic Uprising.
The direct and democratic election of Kim Dae Jung as president of South Korea in 1997 propelled the country into a state of political and economic stability signifying the strong correlation that exists between democracy and economic development.