Although South Korea has democratized, the weakness of liberalism there as a major political ideology and value system has prevented the full flowering of democracy. This talk will examine the historical roots of liberalism's failure to take firm root in Korean politics and society. The causes of such weakness are to be found, in both of the two major social and political forces in Korean society, conservatives and radical/progressive forces; neither has been or is liberal. The resulting problems include a strong, highly centralized state and its authoritarian tendencies, the failure to create a stable party system, civil society's weak autonomy vis-à-vis the state, and inadequate constitutional checks-and-balances among the three branches of government exacerbated by a weak judiciary. With democratic practice falling ever farther behind the Korean people's aspirations, enhanced liberalism will not solve all problems. Nevertheless, Dr. Choi argues, it could point the way toward a richer Korean democracy.
Jang Jip Choi is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Korea University, Seoul, Korea, and currently a Visiting Professor in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. Specializing in contemporary political history in Korea, the theory of democracy, comparative politics and labor politics, professor Choi is the author of many books, scholarly articles and political commentaries on Korean politics, including Democracy after Democratization in Korea (2002), Which Democracy? (2007), and From Minjung to Citizens (2008). Professor Choi holds a B.A. in political science from Korea University, and an M.A. and a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Chicago. He was a professor in the department of political science at Korea University until his retirement in 2008.