Friday, December 9, 2005

The 90's (Part IV)

Under the so-called ‘grand compromise’ in 1990, the Democratic Justice Party (led by Roh Tae-woo), the Reunification Democratic Party (RDP - led by Kim Young-sam) and the New Democratic Republican Party (NDRP - led by Kim Jong-pil 金鍾泌 Wiki) merged to create the Democratic Liberal Party (DLP). The specific path taken by the transformation process and transformation strategies of the relevant decision makers thus had a stabilizing effect on the basic democratic institutions and procedures in the country. This became the first civilian to assume the country’s highest national and governmental office in 1992/93 after more than 30 years of military domination of national politics.

Before the 1997 presidential elections, Kim Jong-pil and Kim Dae-jung of the National Congress for New Politics (NCNP) formed a new opposition alliance which paved the way for the first democratic change of government in South Korean history. Kim Dae-jung was the first opposition candidate to win the presidential contest on 18 December 1997. The inauguration in February 1998 of the newly-elected President Kim Dae-jung, a dissident for many years, demonstrated that all the country’s relevant forces had been integrated into the political system.

South Korea in the Late 1990s --- Negotiating Reforms

  1. Increasing Campaign Spending and Political Corruption. Elections in Korea today have become capital-intensive. Although this is a world-wide phenomenon, soaring campaign costs are especially significant in South Korea. This gives candidates strong rational incentives to invest more and more money in outbidding their opponents. To limit campaign spending some observers have proposed a reduction in the number of seats in the National Assembly to about 260.

  2. Deficit of Social Representativeness of Parliament and Political Parties: Critics of the current system argue that it is unable to transmit public opinion and social interests into parliament. In other words, the composition of parliament does not represent sufficiently the public will. The current system benefits major, established, or larger parties. They are, however, the biggest obstacles for democratic consolidation in South Korea.

  3. Furthermore, stable alignments between the parties and the electorate do not exist; linkages between parties, candidates and society are weak or absent. The degree of organizational autonomy of Korean parties is generally low. The social, financial and political support parties receive from other groups in society is mostly under the control of individual politicians. There are very few organizational resources which are not bound to leading party figures. Also, the linkages between various party factions are weak.

  4. Regionalism. Critics of the current system argue that it blocks the development of a truly national party system. They claim that it supports regionalistic tendencies and offers strong incentives to those political parties who act as brokers of regionalistic interests.

  5. Party Formation. This fourth point is an additional peril of the current system, which is, however, not much discussed in the Korean debate. The current electoral system hampers the development of stable party organizations. Instead it supports tendencies toward a short-lived, volatile party system, characterized by frequent party splits, mergers and re-foundings of party organizations, continuous re-labelling of parties and a lack of party institutionalization.

The current system is a candidate-centred electoral system, whereas a proportional system would be more party-centred. Vice president was elected separately, with Rhee's favourite Lee Gi-bung being declared victor. Opposition claims election was rigged.

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