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Challenging the East Asian Development Model: Evidence from South Korea

  • Jaekwon Cha
  • O. Fiona YapEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

The resurgence of the East Asian development model has seen alarming trends of populist-authoritarianism as well as democratic reversals. Yet, the core argument—strong, unconstrained governments successfully motivate or compel compliance—is rarely assessed. This paper makes that systematic assessment with historical data and survey findings from South Korea, the prototypical East Asian model. Two findings are consequential: first, strong, unconstrained governments led to higher-than-normal disinvestments; this occurs notwithstanding in- or out-of-favour sectors. This means that government could not strong-arm or exploit out-of-favour producers to abide by policies that favour other sectors. Second, surveys analysed show that almost 40% have or would engage in political actions that challenged the government, despite the latter’s strength or autocracy. This means that citizens, of which labour is a large component, were also willing to disobey the government’s policies or directives. Together, the results challenge the model that strong government may successfully override preferences to push or even compel the compliance that underpins economic success.

Keywords

East Asian development model Citizens’ non-compliance Disinvestments Systematic evidence Case-study Surveys 

Résumé

La résurgence du modèle de développement d’Asie de l’Est a entraîné des tendances alarmantes d’autoritarisme populiste ainsi que des renversements démocratiques. Pourtant, l’argument fondamental - les gouvernements forts et sans contraintes parviennent à gagner ou à forcer l’obéissance - est rarement évalué. Cette étude effectue une évaluation systématique à partir de données historiques et de résultats d’enquêtes de la Corée du Sud, le prototype du modèle d’Asie de l’Est. Deux conclusions en découlent: premièrement, des gouvernements forts et sans contrainte ont conduit à des désinvestissements supérieurs à la normale; cela se produit quel que soit le secteur, qu’il ait le vent en poupe ou non. Cela signifie que le gouvernement n’était pas en mesure de forcer ou d’exploiter les producteurs des secteurs délaissés pour qu’ils se conforment aux politiques favorables à d’autres secteurs. Deuxièmement, les enquêtes analysées montrent que près de 40% des personnes interrogées s’étaient déjà ou seraient capables de se lancer dans des actions politiques remettant en cause le gouvernement, malgré sa puissance ou son autocratie. Cela signifie que les citoyens, qui constituent un élément important de la main-d’œuvre, étaient également disposés à désobéir aux politiques ou directives du gouvernement. Ensemble, les résultats mettent en cause le modèle selon lequel un gouvernement fort peut renverser les préférences personnelles pour inciter, voire imposer, l’obéissance qui conditionne le succès économique.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported in part by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2015S1A3A2047036).

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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and DiplomacyPukyong National UniversityBusanSouth Korea
  2. 2.Crawford School of Public PolicyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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