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The Transformation of South Korea: Reform and Reconstitution in the Sixth Republic Under Roh Tae Woo, 1987-1992

Publisher: , 1994
Link to online store *

From the publisher’s website:

South Korea underwent rapid economic development under a semi-military, virulently anti-communist government which banned trade unions and kept close checks on the economy. President Roe Tae Woo has, however, since 1987, introduced electoral and social reforms. Strikes and wage rises have followed, leading to a loss of competitive edge, and the growth of opposition parties has resulted in political stalemate.

Robert E. Bedeski provides a thorough analysis of the institutions of government in South Korea and how they have been transformed by the introduction of political pluralism, and of the attempt to liberalize without undermining economic success. He also examines the new political parties and their role within the framework of the South Korean political system, as well as their social context. State reforms are compared with developments in Taiwan, the Phillipines, North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union. The major themes of state-building and economic development are thoroughly explored. The author also deals with South Korea’s international environment and changing foreign policy.

Robert E. Bedeski has lived and worked in various parts of East Asia since 1959, has taught and written about the comparative politics and international politics of the region. He is now Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Victoria.


  1. State reform in South Korea
    Introduction — Background of the modem Korean state — Conflict and political reform — The first five Republics: background to democratization — The Third and Fourth Republics: economic and social transformation under Park Chung Hee — Transition to the Fifth Republic — The Sixth Republic and the Roh presidency — Summary
  2. The institutions of government
    Foundations of the modem Korean state — Government structure – weak v. strong institutions — Liquidation of the legacy of the Fifth Republic — Constitutional reform in the Sixth Republic: the presidency and local government — The 1992 presidential elections — The election results
  3. Political parties and South Korean politics
    The character of political parties in South Korea — The institutionalization of political parties — The development of political parties in South Korea — The authority crisis of 1985 — Creating a new ruling party — Political parties and liberalization — Conclusions
  4. The economic context of reform
    Introduction — Towards balanced growth: maturing of a developing economy — Labour — Capital – the chaebol and the state — Agriculture reform — The economic dimensions of social conflict
  5. The social context of Korean politics
    Divisions and unity in South Korean society — Factors of social change — Pluralism and equality — Education and Korean society — Social conflict – catalyst for democracy? — Conclusion
  6. State reform in a comparative context
    State-building and social engineering in South Korea — What is state reform? — Taiwan – another ‘piecemeal experiment’ — The People’s Republic of China — North Korean politics – the Kim Il Sung dictatorship — The USSR and its successor, Russia — Implications Conclusions —
  7. South Korea’s international environment and foreign policy
    South Korea as a rising middle power — South Korea foreign policy: Nordpolitik — An assessment of Nordpolitik
  8. Conclusions

Appendix: Roh Tae Woo’s declaration of 29 June 1987

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