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Understanding Korean Politics: An Introduction

From the publisher’s website:

Presents an indispensable survey of contemporary Korean politics.

Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary Korea and East Asia, this book provides a comprehensive and balanced introduction to contemporary Korean politics. It explicates the great changes in South Korea, which has gone from being one of the poorest nations to a proud member of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation while making the transition to democracy. The work focuses on the geopolitical and cultural setting, historical evolution, institutional foundation, dynamics of political leadership, and political and administrative processes of Korean politics. It also features chapters on political determinants of the rise and decline of the Korean economy, foreign and unification policy of South Korea, and political development and decay in North Korea.

“This book presents a complete overview of Korean politics including background material, current events and processes, and future prospects. This is a welcome addition to the Korean politics field, which has lacked such a comprehensive survey. Its contents go beyond purely introductory material, which makes it suitable not only for introductory Korean or East Asian politics courses but for fairly advanced comparative politics courses as well.” — HeeMin Kim, Florida State University

Contributors include Dong-suh Bark, Ki-shik S. J. Hahn, David C. Kang, Soong Hoom Kil, Woon-Tai Kim, Byung Chul Koh, Jung Bock Lee, Sunghack Lim, Chung-in Moon, and Sung Chul Yang.

Soong Hoom Kil is a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea and former Professor of Political Science at Seoul National University. He is the author of Contemporary Japanese PoliticsChung-in Moon is Professor of Political Science at Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea. He is the author of several books, including Globalization and Democratization in South Korea: Assessments and Projects and Democracy and the Korean Economy.


  1. Introduction: Understanding Korean Politics | Soong Hoom Kil and Chung-in Moon
    Understanding Korean Politics: Four Legacies | Structure of the Book
  2. Korean Politics: Setting and Political Culture | Woon-Tai Kim
    Geopolitical Setting | Economic Setting | Social Setting | Political Culture | Conclusion
  3. Development of Korean Politics–A Historical Profile | Soong Hoom Kil 
    American Occupation and the First and Second Republics (1945-1960) | In the Heart of Darkness: Political History of the Third through Sixth Republics | Broken Promises: Politics and Economy under the Kim Young Sam Government | Conclusion: Toward a New Political Horizon
  4. The Institutional Foundations of Korean Politics | David C. Kang
    Institutions and Politics | Institutional Foundations of Korean Politics | Political Implications for Korean Politics | Conclusion
  5. Political Leadership in Korean Politics | Ki-shik S. J. Hahn
    The Political Leaders of the First and Second Republics | The Political Leaders of the Third and Fourth Republics | The Political Leaders of the Fifth and Sixth Republics | Conclusion: Evaluating Political Leadership and the Patterns of Official Recruitment
  6. The Political Process in Korea | Jung Bock Lee
    Elections in Korea | The Political Parties of Korea | Students, the Military, Mass Media, and Interest Groups in Korea | Conclusion
  7. The Administrative Process in Korea | Dong-suh Bark
    History of the Korean Administration: An Overview | Democratization of the Administration | Functions of the Administration | Administrative Division of Labor and Resource Mobilization | Enhancing Bureaucratic Performance: Evaluation and Control | Conclusion
  8. The Politics of Economic Rise and Decline in South Korea | Chung-in Moon and Sunghack Lim 
    Contending Models of the Political Economy of South Korea: Market, the State, Networks, and the International System | Historical Trajectory of Economic Transformation: An Empirical Overview | Accounting for the Rise and Decline of the Korean Economy | Conclusion
  9. The Foreign and Unification Policies of the Republic of Korea | Byung Chul Koh 
    Themes in South Korea’s Foreign Policy | Changes in South Korea’s Foreign Policy | Continuity and Change in South Korea’s Unification Policy | The Unification Policy of the Kim Young Sam Government | The “Sunshine” Policy of the Kim Dae Jung Government | Conclusion
  10. Understanding the North Korean Political Framework | Sung Chul Yang
    Approaches to the Study of North Korean Politics | Common Elements: Promise versus Practice | Deviations: Objective Conditions and Subjective Attributes | Conclusion


Suggested Reading List | Map of Korea | Basic Facts on Korea and the Korean Peninsula | Korean Constitution | Government Structure of the Republic of Korea




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* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.