Finding the Public Voice in Korea’s Political Party System, by Kee Hoon Chung

In South Korea, a liberal democracy, one might expect strong public disapproval to be addressed through the institutionalized political framework. However, as demonstrated by the Grand Canal Project and the Media Law Revision cases, opposition parties went outside the political framework to engage in dramatic measures of protest against the GNP, the ruling party. Examination of both cases shows that the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, played a marginalized, if not nonexistent, role in representing public opposition at the legislative level. Furthermore, strong public opposition had little impact on the GNP members’ behavior, as the members remained strictly loyal to their party interest in both cases. In such context, political opposition was carried out through advocacy outside the political framework, because these channels provided the highest probability of success. The GNP’s preponderance in the National Assembly gives rise to an ineffective political party system, wherein public interest is not well represented—an issue that will have to be addressed if democracy in Korea is to mature.  

“Finding the Public Voice in Korea’s Political Party System,” is an excerpt from Part II of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

Kee Hoon Chung is a first-year M.A. candidate at SAIS concentrating in Korea studies and energy, resource, and environmental studies. He holds a B.A. in international relations from Stanford University and has worked for a variety of organizations, ranging from an NGO in South Korea to the U.S. Senate. He first became interested in working with South Korea, his native country, after serving in the Korean military as part of the country’s mandatory two-year military service program. His primary academic interests include Korean energy policy and the policymaking dynamics that exist between political parties, NGOs, and the media.