The Struggle for Democracy: a comparative study of Taiwan and South Korea

Research output: Other contribution


Democracy in Taiwan and South Korea has been achieved through protracted political struggles. Authoritarian regimes, in their formal endorsement of democracy and sanction of capitalist development, have created for themselves problems of legitimation and generated room for the expansion of the civil society. It is through exploiting these structural and ideological weaknesses of authoritarian rule, mobilizing available social and cultural resources, as well as capitalizing on contingent political factors that the oppositional movements have emerged, expanded, and finally, forced the regimes to compromise.

The importance of contingent political factors in the process and the compromising character of democratic transitions allude to two further observations. First, although an expanding opposition is a prerequisite for the transition, the opposition can vary, within limits, in its social composition, ideology, as well as mode of collective action. In Taiwan and South Korea, the democratic struggles have differed because of the relative salience of the political party in Taiwan's system of corporatist control, weakness of the country's labor movement, vigor of its bourgeoisie, and the centrality of its sub-ethnic tension. Second, because a democratic transition involves no more than changes in formal political rules, stability of the democracy thus attained and the social ramifications of the transition are matters subjected to continued contention. The pre-existing socio-political structures and the nature of the oppositional movement are factors critical in the contest.

My study points to weaknesses in the political contingency approach and the social structural approach to democratic transition. The political contingency approach has overstated the relevance of the intra-elite dynamics for the liberalization and democratization of the regime. In my cases, the oppositional movements have weighted heavily in the politics of democratic transition and their emergence cannot be explained solely by the policy of liberalization. The social structural approach has provided powerful guidance for analyzing the consequences of capitalist development and identifying the social components of the opposition. It remains silent, however, in matters of ethnicity and has not succeeded in providing a linkage between structure and action as well as state and society.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD dissertation
PublisherUniversity of California
Place of PublicationUnited States
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1995


Dive into the research topics of 'The Struggle for Democracy: a comparative study of Taiwan and South Korea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this