Stable Imperatives, Shifting Strategies: Reagan and Democracy Promotion in the Republic of Korea
The development of US policy toward South Korea from the early to late Reagan administration offers a fertile case study with which to examine the continuity but also evolution of contradictory objectives, namely, support for democratic practices and institutions alongside the imperative of anti-communist stability. Although the same essential logic (i.e. strategic stability and relative US control) underpinned policy in both early and late periods, in the latter the administration shifted toward deliberate restraint of further authoritarian rule and exerted pressure for a democratic transition, if in somewhat limited form. The result was a more deliberate focus on democracy promotion as the preferred means for preserving US hegemony, replacing earlier patterns of hierarchical and coercive forms of social control with more consensual ones.