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Impact of Democratization on Regionalism in Korea: A Complex Interplay
Region: Asia
Theme: Politics
Location: Korea, South
Published May 25, 2011
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A controversy has arisen over entrenched regionalism in Korean politics and its resolution. There are basically two opposing views: One is the top-down institutional approach that emphasizes reforms in the electoral system. The other view, the bottomup socioeconomic approach, focuses on the importance of socioeconomic differentiation for the emergence of issue-oriented parties. In what follows, I will briefly summarize and criticize the recent debates and suggest an alternative framework with which to analyze the relationship between democratization and regionalism. On the basis of this framework, I will show the positive and negative impact of democratization on regionalism and explain why neither view is adequate given the current socioeconomic situation. My main argument is that changes in the electoral system will bring only limited success in weakening regionalism and that the government is not in any position to pursue consistent policies to facilitate socioeconomic differentiation that would be the basis for issue-oriented parties.

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