The Quality of Democracy in South Korea and Taiwan: Subjective Assessments from the Perspectives of Ordinary Citizens

South Korea (Korea hereafter) and Taiwan are widely recognized as the two most successful third-wave democracies in Asia (Chu, Diamond, and Shin, 2001; Diamond and Plattner, 1998; Shin and Lee, 2003). For more than a decade, these two new democracies have regularly held free and competitive elections at all levels of their respective governments. Both nationally and locally, citizens choose the heads of the executive branches and the members of the legislatures thorough regularly scheduled electoral contests. Unlike many countries in the region, moreover, the two countries have peacefully transferred power to opposition parties, the Millennium Democratic Party in Korea and the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan. Accordingly, there is little doubt that the political regimes of Korea and Taiwan fully meet the democratic principle of popular sovereignty featuring free and fair elections, universal adult suffrage, and multiparty competition. Nonetheless, little is known about how well their current regimes meet other important principles of liberal democracy and uphold its basic values such as freedom, equality, and justice.