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Where democracy is headed

Oct 17,2017
Post-democracy is where the United States and the United Kingdom are situated, according to Colin Crouch in “Coping with Post-Democracy.” Under the model of post-democracy, while the forms of democracy are in place and have even strengthened in some respects, “Politics and government are increasingly slipping back into the control of privileged elites in the manner characteristic of pre-democratic times.” Democracy, in short, has moved in a parabola.

South Korea, on the other hand, has a relatively short history of democracy, so Crouch’s theory is not adequate to explain the progress of Korean democracy. Korean businesses, especially chaebol, are much involved in the Global Value Chain, reaping bulks of profits to maximize shareholder values. As a consequence, Korean workers are experiencing similar issues of casualization of workers due to outsource and sub-contract of firms. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance has uploaded the basic guideline for the administration to boost employment with improved working condition while undergoing corporate restructuring. Actual measures to reform chaebol are yet to be seen.

As essential as free and fair elections are to breathing life into democracy, those are only the minimal democratic model. The maximal ideal of democracy is when the mass of ordinary people are given roughly equal opportunities in a real capacity to affect political outcomes. Although the Moon Jae-in administration has built the long-awaited communication platforms both online and offline to invigorate public engagement in decision-making processes, it is apparent many people do not understand how to take full advantage of these channels to express their thoughts.

While chaebol have had decades of time to tame imperfectly democratic economy alongside fractured democratic polity, ordinary people have only just begun to realize what it means to live as democratic citizens. Globalization of advertisements heralding messages that beautify liberalization, consumerism and wealth accumulation above all else hampers people from connecting the dots and pinpoint on the important problems worth discussing such as air pollution and corporate reform.

With the lack of endorsement from the public and the media, however, to promote democratic values against deregulation by enforcing stronger social safety nets, compared to the effort made by the Moon administration, the gains may turn out to be much less.

This is to be expected considering Korea’s democracy was weak from the beginning. The next step is to figure out how to update the content of our education as well as the overall system to sustain the maturing process of democracy before the new era of fourth revolution takes its toll.

*Student at Kyung Hee University majoring in international relations

Ku Yae-rin