The US Role in Korean Democracy and Security since Cold War Era

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This paper traces the role that US played in the development of Korean democracy and maintaining peace and security in the Korean peninsula. First, it looks back into the US role in the Korean political transformation from 1950s through 1980s. It examines why the US introduced American style democracy in the divided country and what was the role of the US in the critical junctures of regime changes and transformations. The United States had two contradictory objectives in South Korea: to build up South Korea as ‘a showcase for democracy’ and as an anti-communist buffer state. The two objectives set ‘the American boundary’ to South Korean democracy. The first objective acted upon as an enabling condition for incipient democracy, while the second acted upon as a confining condition to development of democracy in South Korea. Second, it investigates the role that the US played in the outbreak of financial crisis in 1987 and in the ensuing comprehensive neoliberal restructuring of the economy by the Kim Dae Jung government after the crisis. Third, it analyzes three events that put US-Korean relations under stress since the inauguration of Bush administration: Anti-Americanism, perception gap on North Korea, and the new military transformation initiative of US. Finally, it draws policy rationales for stronger Korea-US alliance in the future from the Korean perspective: Korea-US alliance as leverages against China and Japan, means of pursuing an effective engagement policy toward North Korea, a cornerstone to lift South Korea to a hub state in Northeast Asia, and geopolitical balancer and stabilizer in Northeast Asia after the unification of Korea.

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... Second, this study can contribute to the literature on democratization by shedding light on the previously overlooked dimension of South Korean societal actors' international ties. Studies on the effects of international ties on South Korea's democratization have mainly focused on military, political, and economic elites (Adesnik & McFaul, 2006, p. 15-7;Im, 2006;Brazinsky, 2007). On the other hand, the current scholarship analyzes the role of societal actors during South Korea's democratization in terms of their domestic networks and opportunity structures (Chang, 2008;Yun, 1997). ...
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International relations (IR) scholars have examined the relationship between international ties and democratization. However, they disproportionately focus on elite-level calculus and behavior, such as hand-tying and credible commitment mechanisms. Such a narrow focus on elite behaviors can only partially account for the impacts of international ties on democratization. For example, the role of political and economic elites as veto players is relevant in the late phase of democratization. Furthermore, their strategic calculus can dilute democracy promotion imperatives. On the other hand, the broader democratization literature highlights that societal actors are important in facilitating democratization. Nevertheless, most studies on the international ties of societal actors focus on specific policy areas falling short of democratization. In this study, I argue that international ties of societal actors increase the chances of democratization while political, military, and economic elites do not have independent causal effects. I empirically test the hypothesis by disaggregating international ties into different types based on actors involved in the interaction. The case study on South Korea’s democratization process substantiates the hypothesis by shedding light on the previously overlooked role of the medical community and its international ties.
... In addition, more work should be done on the effect on democracy levels of strengthening ties in bilateral security alliances, such as the US network of alliances in Asia. Although US involvement in South Korea is an example of how bilateral security cooperation can promote democracy (Im 2006), other work indicates that elements of bilateral security cooperation, such as troop deployments, can undermine the values of liberal democracy even when states are interested in democracy promotion (Cooley 2012;Bell et al. 2017). Finally, our article demonstrates the continued value of work on the numerous domestic consequences of security regimes beyond democratization encapsulated in formal institutions. ...
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Did NATO expansion foster democratic development in Eastern Europe? Past scholarship offers conflicting answers to this question. We seek to bring clarity by focusing on the 2004 NATO expansion to include the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. We leverage the fact that we now as many years of data since NATO entry as we have between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 2004 NATO expansion. We also use newly available and highly refined data on regime type. We show that NATO membership and anticipation thereof had little to no influence on democratic development in Eastern Europe. However, anticipation of European Union membership appears to have bolstered democratic development. Although the results cannot fully rule out NATO playing a secondary role, they make clear that NATO membership was not a necessary condition for democratic survival in Eastern Europe.
The ROK–US alliance has survived the tumultuous periods following the demise of the Cold War international order and morphed into what both countries identify as a global, value-based partnership. Skeptical assessments of the alliance's future seemed to have overlooked a number of factors. First, domestic politics can make a big difference; political leadership can play a crucial role in salvaging or damaging alliance partnership. Second, the importance of shared values and identities looms larger in modern alliances. States tend to ally with others to cope with uncertainties, not necessarily to counter manifest threats. Alliances can survive the disappearance of the common threats that had given rise to the alliances and they can be sustained in order to further various interests. All these factors and dynamics help account for why the ROK–US alliance has survived the post-Cold War adversity. Nevertheless, these factors alone come short of explaining why the alliance has elevated to a core of US security strategy in the region; they do not explain why the alliance once again has come to occupy the very heart of the ROK's security strategy. It was the divergent strategic perceptions that mostly frayed the alliance in the first place, and it was the convergence of strategic perceptions that brought the alliance back together.
This paper aims at examining the research on theory and policy that has been funded by Korean international relations (IR) scholarships during the past 50 years.In theoretical perspectives, lots of theoretical paradigms, including those of realists, liberals, constructivists, and radicals, have competed with each other in the field of Korean IR studies. Currently, the Korean IR scholarships no longer rely on just importing foreign thoughts and ideas. Now is the time to facilitate the process of appropriating the study of IR to the standards of Koreanization. First, it is desirable to pursue inter-disciplinary research with historians. Second, such research cannot be completed within academic circles alone. Hundreds and hundreds of civilian sectors are raising their voices, especially in democratic environments. Scholars are required to have open-mindedness to these demands. Third, we need to promote cooperation with other countries, including Japan and China, as South Korea needs to combine expertise on Korean issues with broader knowledge of the world in the contemporary era when global communications are more urgently needed than ever before.With regard to policies, South Korea, in a state of national division, has constantly been faced with threats – military and political – from North Korea. The Korean IR scholarship is required to devote itself to finding proper ways to promote peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. Thus, scholars of Korean IR are urged to continuously carry out their historical mission of offering wide-ranging suggestions for external policies for the nation and the East Asian region.
This chapter is a game-theoretic analysis of the aborted transition to democracy in the period 1979–1981 and the successful democratic transition in the mid-1980s. The transition from authoritarianism to democracy depends on the outcome of strategic interplays among relevant political actors. The game of transition starts with the organization of viable democratic alternatives by the democratic opposition, and a split within the authoritarian power bloc between hard-liners and soft-liners. If viable democratic alternatives are organized without a split in the authoritarian regime, the outcome of strategic interplays will likely be an inconclusive tug-of-war. The democratic transition takes place as the one of four outcomes of the game of transition: (1) coup by hard-liners and popular revolution by maximalists as the outcome of confrontation in the streets; (2) authoritarianism with concessions but no transition; (3) protracted and inconclusive struggle, standoff and no transition; (4) democratic transition through compromise between “reformers” within the regime and moderate opposition.
In 1989, during the transition phase of Korea's democratization, Jinwung Kim observed that Koreans were sharing “new stirrings of nationalism arising from their country's rapid economic growth and political liberalization” and that this new nationalism had stirred antiforeign sentiments aimed mainly at “Korea's ‘big brother,’ the United States.” In the 1990s, scholars, policymakers, and the media in both the United States and South Korea continued to note an upswing and “mainstreaming” of anti-Americanism that were attributed to a resurgent nationalism and a rejection of authoritarianism. For example, based on several nationwide surveys conducted in Korea in the early 1990s, Gi-Wook Shin concluded: “anti-Americanism is not confined to any particular strata, but is widespread in South Korean society.” However, he found that Korean anti-Americanism was neither an ideological rejection of the United States as representative of capitalism and modernity nor a rejection of American culture. Rather, “national consciousness” and “nationalist concerns” served as the primary political source of anti-Americanism. In Korea, unlike in Germany or Japan at that time (the mid-1990s), “the presence of American military forces [had] not provoked strong reactions from the Korean people” although “continued misconduct of American soldiers … [had] recently begun generating a more negative picture.” But by the end of the decade, over 100 Korean civic organizations had joined together to voice their criticism of Korea–U.S. relations, particularly on the 1967 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the role and behavior of U.S. troops stationed in Korea.
PrefaceTheoretical ConsiderationsSoldiers, Bankers, and the Zaibatsu in Colonial Korea: Prologue to the FutureA Method to His Madness: The Political Economy of Import-Substitution Industrialization in Rhee's KoreaIn the East Asian Cauldron: Korea Takes OffThe Search for Autonomy: The Big PushThe Political Economy of Korea, Inc.: The State, Finance, and the ChaebolSlouching Toward the Market: Financial Liberalization in the 1980sNotesBibliographyIndex
THE ASIA-PACIFIC RESEARCH CENTER (APARC) is a unique Stanford University institution focused on the study of contemporary Asia. APARC's mission is to produce and publish Asia Pacific–focused interdisciplinary research; to educate students, scholars, and corporate and governmental affiliates about the importance of US-Asian relations; to promote constructive interaction to understand and resolve the region's challenges; to influence US policy toward the Asia-Pacific; and to guide Asian nations on key foreign relations, government, political economy, technology, and social issues.
In this paper, I investigate why a bureaucratic-authoritarian (hereafter BA) regime emerged in South Korea during the early 1970s. The regime transition was the outcome of conflict among key political actors who were constrained, although not in a deterministic way, by the change in the Korean economic structure. It can be understood as the outcome of strategic choices made by key political actors among alternatives that satisfied structural constraints.
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