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The Rise of Bureaucratic Authoritarianism in South Korea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

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In this paper, I investigate why a bureaucratic-authoritarian (hereafter BA) regime emerged in South Korea during the early 1970s. The regime transition was the outcome of conflict among key political actors who were constrained, although not in a deterministic way, by the change in the Korean economic structure. It can be understood as the outcome of strategic choices made by key political actors among alternatives that satisfied structural constraints.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1977

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1 A typical example of the thesis is found in Lipset, Seymour M., “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review 53 (March 1959), 69105CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Revisionist modernization theorists criticized this thesis of political development. Samuel P. Huntington, for example, argued that, without institutionalization, economic development is not likely to lead to political democratization, but may result in praetorianism. See Huntington, , Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968).Google Scholar

2 O'Donnell, initially offered the BA model in Modernization and Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).Google Scholar

3 O'Donnell, Guillermo, “Corporatism and the Question of the State” in Malloy, James M., ed., Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977), 54.Google Scholar

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5 Ibid., 13–15.

6 William L. Canak as well as Douglas C. Bennett and Kenneth E. Sharpe have provided reviews of evaluations and critiques. See Canak, , “The Peripheral State Debate: State Capitalist and Bureaucratic-Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America,” Latin American Research Review 19 (No. 1, 1984), 336Google Scholar, and Bennett, and Sharpe, , “Capitalism, bureaucratic authoritarianism and prospects for democracy in the United States,” International Organization 36 (Summer 1982), 633–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Fermin D. Adriano and Jonathan Hartlyn, respectively, criticized the BA thesis through case studies of the Philippines and of Colombia. See Adriano, , “A Critique of the ‘Bureaucratic Authoritarian State’ Thesis: The Case of the philippines,” Journal of Contemporary Asia 14 (No. 4, 1984), 459–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hartlyn, , “The Impact of Patterns of Industrialization and of Popular Sector Incorporation on Political Regime Type: A Case Study of Colombia,” Studies in Comparative International Development 19 (Spring 1984), 2960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7 For the critique of economic determinism in O'Donnell's model, see the articles by Hirschman, Albert O., Serra, Jose, and Collier, David in Collier, David, ed., The New Authoritarianism in Latin America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979)Google Scholar; Philip, George, “Military Authoritarianism in South America: Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina,” Political Studies 32 (March 1984), 120CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Adriano (fn. 6).

8 For the discussion of economic restructuring within the framework of a semicompetitive formal democracy in Colombia, see Ruhl, J. Mark, “An Alternative to the Bureaucratic-Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Colombian Modernization,” Inter-American Economic Af-fairs 35 (Autumn 1981), 4369Google Scholar, and Hartlyn (fn. 6). For the Venezuelan case, see Karl, Terry L., “Petroleum and Political Pacts: The Transition to Democracy in Venezuela,” in O'Donnell, Guillermo, Schmitter, Philippe C., and Whitehead, Laurence, eds., Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Latin America (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1986)Google Scholar, chap. 9.

9 Colombia's bipartisan National Front regime and Venezuela's Accion Democratica (AD) are good examples of political arrangements of compromise and concession to accommodate conflicts of interests among social classes and groups arising from structural economic change. See Hartlyn (fn. 6), Ruhl (fn. 8), and Karl (fn. 8).

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11 José Serra, “Three Mistaken Theses Regarding the Connection between Industrialization and Authoritarian Regimes,” in Collier (fn. 7).

12 I am careful not to read all of O'Donnell too rigidly. In later writings, he tried to redress the theoretical flaws of unctionalism. For example, he used a strategic-choice analysis in “State and Alliances in Argentina, 1956–1976,” Journal of Development Studies 15 (October 1998), 333.Google Scholar

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19 The support of Brazilian industrialists, especially those in the Sao Paulo area, for the abertura (opening) after 1975 is a good example. See Pereira, Luiz Bresser, Development and Crisis in Brazil, 1930–1983 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984), 190–99.Google Scholar

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22 Mouzelis, Nicos, “Regime Instability and the State in Peripheral Capitalism: A General Theory and a Case Study of Greece,” Working Papers of the Latin American Program, No. 79 (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1980).Google Scholar

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24 For the principal traits of BA regimes characterized by O'Donnell, see O'Donnell (fn. 4), 6, and O'Donnell, “Tensions in the Bureaucratic-Authoritarian State and the Question of Democracy,” in Collier (fn. 7), 291–94.

25 Between 1965 and 1976, the share of lower income groups (bottom 40%) declined from 19.34% to 16.85%, but that of upper income groups (top 20%) increased from 41.81% to 45.34%. See Choo, Hak Chung, “Gyecheungbyul sodeugbunpoeui chugyewa byundongyoin” [An estimation of size distribution of income and the cause of change], Hangug Gaebal Yeongu 1 (March 1979), 34.Google Scholar

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27 Sang Jin Han of Seoul National University discussed the specificity in the rise of the Korean BA regime in “Gwanryojeug kwunwijueuiwa hangugsahoe” [Bureaucratic authoritarianism and Korean society], Study Group on Sociology of Seoul National University, eds., Hangugsahoeeui Juntonggwa Byunhwa [Tradition and change in Korean society] (Seoul: Bummunsa, 1983), 261–97.Google Scholar

28 The Korean economy showed a slight downturn from the peak rate of economic growth in 1969 (13.8% GNP growth). GNP growth in 1970,1971,2nd 1972 was 7.6%, 9.4%, and 5.8%, respectively. See Republic of Korea, Economic Planning Board, Social Indicators in Korea, 1981, p. 55. Nevertheless, the slackening of growth should not be interpreted as a crisis in the economy but rather as the stabilization of economic growth. The growth rate in this “recession period” was relatively high compared to the rates of both the advanced industrialized countries and the developing countries.

29 Gupta, Jyotirindra Das, “A Season of Caesars: Emergency Regimes and Development Politics in Asia,” Asian Survey 28 (April 1978), 347.Google Scholar

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37 Lim, Hyun Chin, “Dependent Development in the World System: The Case of South Korea, 1963–1979,” Ph.D. diss. (Harvard University, 1982)Google Scholar, chap. 4.

38 Frank et al. (fn. 32), chap. 4.

39 Watanabe, Susumu, “Export and Employment: The Case of the Republic of Korea,” International Labor Review 106 (December 1972), 521–22.Google Scholar

40 Leroy P. Jones and II Sakong discuss both “field manipulation” and “command” types of state intervention to implement export platform policies in Jones and Sakong, Government, Business, and Entrepreneurship in Economic Development: The Korean Case (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980)Google Scholar, chap. 4.

41 Ibid., chap. 5

42 Frank et al (fn. 32), 1, 11; Kuznetz (fn. 30), 117.

43 Ibid., 51.

44 Chul Hwan Chun, “Suchul-oejajudogaebaleui baljunronjug pyungga” [Developmentalist evaluation of export- and foreign capital-led development], in Yun Hwan Kim et al., Hanguggyungjeeui Jungaegwajung [Development of the Korean economy] (Seoul: Dolbegae), 188.

45 Snidal(fn. 31), 11.

46 Kim, Kyung Dong, Man and Society in Korea's Economic Growth (Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 1979), 6770.Google Scholar

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49 Evans, Peter, “Transnational Linkages and the Economic Role of the State,” in Evans, Peter, Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Scocpol, Theda, eds., Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 205–06.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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51 Choi, Jang Jip, “Interest Conflict and Political Control in South Korea: A Study of the Labor Unions in Manufacturing Industries, 1961–1980,” Ph.D. diss. (University of Chicago, 1983 ). 7479.Google Scholar

52 Economic Planning Board, Korea Statistical Yearbook 12 (1965) and 22 (1975).Google Scholar

53 Sloboda, John E., “Off-Farm Migration,” in Ban, Sung Hwan et al., Rural Development (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 326.Google Scholar

54 Eddy Lee (fn. 35), 31–32.

55 Nevertheless, rural outmigrants who settled as social marginals improved their incomes. In 1968, for example, per capita income of farmers was 63.4% of that of urban social marginals. See Park, Hyun Chae, Hangugnongubeui Gusang [A plan for Korean agriculture] (Seoul: Han Gil Sa, 1980, 82.Google Scholar

56 Lim (fn. 37), 180.

57 The concept of the “overdeveloped” state was initially formulated by Hamza Alavi. According to Alavi, the postcolonial state inherited an overdeveloped state apparatus (both bureaucratic-military and economic) in relation to civil society, and therefore was capable of subordinating indigenous classes. See Alavi, , “The State in Post-Colonial Societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh,” New Left Review 74 (July-August 1972), 5981Google Scholar. Here I use the term “overdeveloped” in a modified sense. In South Korea, an overdeveloped state apparatus was not inherited from the Japanese colonial state, but was built to carry out American security interests in the cold-war era.

58 Choi (fn. 51), 311–14.

59 Mason, Edward S. et al., The Economic and Social Modernization of the Republic of Korea (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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61 For the concept of the “politicized state,” see Douglas A. Chalmers, “The Politicized State in Latin America,” in Malloy (fn. 3), 23–45.

62 For the discussion of the 1961 coup from the standpoint of internal organizational problems within the military, see Sohn, Jae Souk, “Political Dominance and Political Failure: The Role of the Military in the Republic of Korea,” in Bienen, Henry, ed., The Military Intervenes (Hartford, CT: Russel Sage Foundation, 1968), 103–10Google Scholar, and Lee, Soo Uk, “Dependent Development and the Rise of Authoritarian Regime in South Korea,” unpub. (University of Chicago, 1982), 4050.Google Scholar

63 Fei, John C. H. and Ranis, Gustav, Development of Labor Surplus Economy: Theory and Policy (Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin, 1964).Google Scholar

64 Fei, John C. H. and Ranis, Gustav, “A Model of Growth and Employment in the Open Dualistic Economy: The Case of Korea and Taiwan,” Journal of Development Studies 11 (January 1975), 46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

65 Ibid., 49–51.

66 Choi (fn. 51), 141.

67 Lee, Young Ho, “5.25 Sungueui jungchijug euieui” [The political meaning of the May 25 election], Gughoebo 114 (June 1971), 1011.Google Scholar

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69 Although popular activation increased, the strength of the popular sector and the perception of the popular threat to the ruling power bloc were in every sense moderate to low.

70 This kind of alternative strategy was, indeed, presented by the opposition party candidate, Dae Jung Kim, in the 1971 election. For Kim's strategy, see Kim, Dae Jung, Kim Dae Jung tseeui Daejung Gyungje [Mr. Dae Jung Kim's Mass Economy] (Seoul: Bumwoosa, 1971).Google Scholar

71 Alfred stepan formulated a hypothesis that the more substantial the state's ciercive resources are, the greater the chances that an “exclusionary” regime will be installed. See Stepan, Alfred, The state and society: peru in Comparative perspective (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 8889.Google Scholar