The Public Support for Democratization in Korea: A Multi-Dimensional Approach

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Shin, Doh Chul; Kim, Kwang Woong; Chey, Myung
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서울대학교 사회과학연구원
사회과학과 정책연구, Vol.12 No.3, pp. 113-127
In every region of the world these days, countless numbers of ordinary citizens are demanding the transformation of their political systems into democracies. With the dramatic collapse of the Berlin Wall and the widespread removal of barbed wire, democracy is rapidly becoming an officially acceptable goal in many countries of the Second and Third Worlds(Barnes, 1990; Bohlen, 1990; Bunce, 1990; Fukuyama, 1989; Rustow, 1990; UNESCO, 1990).

As documented in the large volume of the empirical literature, the creation of a stable and fully democratic state depends on a variety of conditions and forces, including class structure, culture, economy, political history, and international environment (Barber and Watson, 1989; Bermeo, 1990; Dahl, 1961; Diamond, Lipset, and Linz, 1986; Huntington, 1984; Lijphart, 1984; Linz and Stephen, 1978; Lipset, 1981; Moore Jr., 1961; O'Donnell and Schmitter, 1986; Powell, 1982; Rustow, 1990; Seligson and Muller, 1987; Weiner, 1987). Of those conditions and forces, the quality of the mass citizenry is known to be the ultimate determinant of struggles for democracy. Although all other conditions can facilitate or hinder the process of democratization, it is the ordinary people in the countries undergoing such change that will eventually determine whether or not viable democracies will be established and maintained there (Dahl, 1989: 262; Gershman, 1988: 25; Gibson, Dutch, and Tedin, 1990: 3; Inglehart, 1990: 24; Marcus, 1988: 27). As Dalton (1988) simply puts it, "popular support is essential for democracies to survive" (p.229).

To create and sustain a viable democracy in a country, its citizenry have to demonstrate more than a passion for the idea of democracy. Between people's passion for democracy as a political ideal and their abilities at democratic politics there always exists a tremendous gap. There is also a wide span between their democratic political aspirations and their actual behavior as citizens of a democratic state. As Inglehart(1990) observes, "a long-term commitment to democratic institutions among the public is also required in order to sustain democracy when conditions are dire" (p. 24).

The gap between the ideal and reality of democratic politics explains why so many countries in the Third World have failed to remain cosistently democratic for a substantial period of time (Linz, 1990; Linz and Stephen, 1978; Needler, 1987; Roberts, 1990; Wesson, 1982). This is also the reason why many of the newly democratizing countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and other parts of the world are likely to falter repeatedly on their road to democracy and why only a few will achieve a successful transition to it. Their problems of democratization and their prospects, therefore, can be assessed meaningfully only with an adequate understanding of the exact nature of their public support for the transformation of authoritarian rule into democratic politics.

To facilitate such an understanding, this paper explores the notion of mass support for democratization in the context of a newly democratizing country. To this end, the paper will first make a brief review of previous empirical research on the subject. Then it will propose a multidimensional model for a comprehensive assessment of public support for democratization. This will be followed by an empirical testing of the model with a set of national sample survey data recently collected from a country that has been undergoing transition to democracy following two decades of harsh authoritarian rule.
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College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학)Center for Social Sciences (사회과학연구원)한국사회과학사회과학과 정책연구 vol.12 (1990-1991)
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