East-West Center POSCO Visiting Fellow Wonik Kim will present a talk titled “How Democratic Is Korean Democracy? Extra-Parliamentary Politics in Comparative Perspective” Thursday, May 22, 2014, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in Burns Hall room 3012.
Kim’s presentation will look at the concept of “civil society,” which is currently in vogue. A flourishing civil society in Korea is considered to have helped bring down the dictatorship. Yet, Korea has the smallest welfare state among advanced capitalist countries, and an increasing number of people are exposed to market-related social risks under hyper-globalization.
The conventional view suggests that Korea’s lack of a decent social safety net must be attributed to its weak civil society. Counter to this conventional wisdom, Kim argues that an excessively strong civil society in Korea has actually helped scuttle the consolidation of democracy under which various societal demands can be materialized. While Korean democracy has made gradual progress in establishing and sustaining competitive elections since the 1987 democratic transition, it has systematically failed to produce any meaningful social welfare provision. Korean democracy is minimalist par excellence but devoid of socioeconomic substances. The gap between this relatively long practice of formal democracy and little progress in achieving substantive democracy lies in the chronic lacuna of political representation, which stems from the disjointed dichotomy of weak party politics and strong movement politics, what Kim calls extra-parliamentary politics.
Wonik Kim is associate professor of political science and associate director of the International Studies Program at Louisiana State University. He specializes in comparative politics and political economy with particular emphasis in East Asia. His research focuses on globalization, the politics of socioeconomic development, and state-society relations. He is currently working on a book project about the history of capitalism in East Asia.