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Development Overview

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Overview of Korea’s development experience

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Development Overview
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General

Overview: 1980~1997

Shortly after the assassination of Park, Junghee in October 26, 1979 by one of his royal followers, another military coup took place, led by Chun, Doo Hwan, to maintain the political status quo. The basic structure of the government and the concentrated political power to the president remained the same, but this time the former president Chun declared one-time 7-year tenure for his presidential term from the very first day. Along with the necessary changes to the constitution with 7-year single term for the president, the Fifth Republic of Korea was established in March 1981.
 
The amendment also prohibited the nomination of the members of the National Assembly by the president that were up to one-third of the total seats in it. It also strengthened the independence of the judiciary branch by reallocating the power to appoint judges from the president to the head of the Supreme Court. Still, the president was to be selected indirectly through the electoral body.
 
New political parties were formed around the same period, centered around the newly formed political power elites as well as the straw figures of the opposition political actors: Democratic Justice Party (ruling party) led by the president Chun; Democratic Korea Party led by the presidential candidate Yu, Chisong; and Korea Citizen Party led by yet another presidential candidate Kim, Jongchul. The three most prominent figures in Korean domestic politics, Kim, Jong-Pil, Kim, Young-Sam and Kim, Dae-Jung were excluded from the political scene by prohibiting any type of political activities altogether.
 
In the areas other than the political arena, the Fifth Republic was the most affluent periods during the economic and social development so far, symbolized by the aid of ‘tri-low’ economic environment: low oil price; low interest rate; and low dollar exchange rate. The golden opportunity of the changes in international economic environment was captured by the major shift in economic and social development strategy right after the seizure of the political power in 1980. Contrary to concentration of political power, former president Chun, closely following advices from his chief economic advisor, had gradually and sometimes drastically removed the overly aggressive government control over the market.
 
The move from stressing stability over growth, from government control to market autonomy, and from closed economy to open economy drastically affected the way economic policies were made, correcting the market distortion created by the economic strategy emphasizing the heavy and chemical industry. The Fair Trade Commission was established even before his presidentship, and a series of reforms on the market and financial institutions were carried out. However, this did not mean the break-up of logrolling relationship between the political actors and business communities.
 
On the social front of the period, Seoul was chosen as the place for the 1988 Olympics, professional sports teams, starting from the baseball, were created, and the colored broadcasting system was adopted and initiated. New investments were made to change the looks and appearances of the Seoul metropolitan city to host the Olympics, and the experience of such greatly enhanced the spirit of the Koreans.
 
However, throughout the periods, there were constant outcries for a democratic government. In February 12, 1985, the general election for the membership to the National Assembly, the Democratic Justice Party gained mere 35.3% whereas the newly formed 20-day-old New-Korean Democracy Party gained 29.2%. Political momentum was building up towards more democracy, and the civil democratic movements in June 1987 called for another amendment to the Constitution.
 
Then the presidential candidate Roh, Tae-Woo proposed a set of amendments including direct voting system to elect president, freedom of the press, freedom of political activities, and decentralized government system. The amendment was adopted by the National Assembly and approved with a general vote in October 27, 1987 with 93.1% ayes, went into motion from February 25, 1988. Since then, no amendments were made on the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.
 
1. Political System
The amendments to the constitution at the beginning of the Fifth Republic marked some changes towards more democratic government, but still far from having a presidential system based on check and balances. Other than limiting the presidential term to a single one with 7-year duration and reduced level of political control on the National Assembly and the judiciary branch of the government, the fundamental political power structure remained the same. The president held no political accountability towards the National Assembly and the National Assembly did not have constitutional authority to impeach the president. Yet the presidential authority retained the power to dissolute the National Assembly, to issue an emergency executive order, to call for a general vote for a specific policy issues, and to initiate constitutional amendments.
 
On the other hand, the president had to get approval from the National Assembly for appointing the prime minister; the National Assembly had constitutional authority to impeach the prime minister and the individual members of the cabinet; and if the prime minister got impeached the whole cabinet would be changed as well; and every act of the president had to have co-signatures of the prime minister and/or the related ministers.
 
Furthermore, the following amendments to the constitution that marked the beginning of the Sixth Republic had changes to the presidential election process from indirectly electing the president through electoral body towards direct voting through a general election, also limiting the term by 5 years with no possibility of re-running for the presidential election. It also revitalized the National Assembly’s oversight function on the matters related to the executive branch, which was almost non-existing in the previous constitution. Henceforth, the political system could be describe as having highly concentrated political power to the president, especially in terms of making almost all policy decisions in the government.
 
2. Governance
The periods between the late president Park’s assassination in 1979 and the period right before the IMF crisis in 1997 can be described as a transitional period from a strong dictatorship towards more democratic form of government. Yet there was still too much concentration of collective decision-making power stemming from concentrated political power to the president as well as the institutional structure of the government, including all three branches. Majority of policy changes, including institutional reform issues, were initiated by the president and followed a top-down mechanism both in adoption and in implementation.
 
Voices of the citizens and of the civil society, interest groups, and stakeholders could not be channeled through the existing venues, not even through the legislative branch and judiciary branch of the government. Such lack of venues to raise the voices of concerned citizens forced them to seek rather unconventional venues such as massive mobilizations, strikes, and demonstrations, often ending up with violence. At the same time, major changes were made in the areas of treating labor unions of various sorts, granting them the due political powers that were suppressed for a long period of time under the dictatorship. And yet there seemed to be little understanding by the ordinary citizens of the input-output mechanisms of the government. To make matters worse, hands of the opposition parties in the National Assembly were often tied due to their minority position.
 
In the political arena, based on the last amended constitution, Roh, Tae-Woo became the next president, succeeding his close personal friend Chun during his military career. Under his ruling, not many changes were made except for greatly enhancing the foreign relationships with communist countries such as the former Soviet Union, China, and Eastern European countries. His regime could be viewed as transitory government despite of the 8.5% average annual economic growth with little changes to the existing economic and social institutions.
 
Due to the widespread unpopularity of the ruling party (Democratic Justice Party) being associated with the former dictator Chun, the ruling party formed a political coalition with the long-time opposition party leader Kim, Young-Sam as well as with one of the minority parties led by Kim, Jong-Pil (the New Democracy Republican Party), and created a new one in January 1990: Democracy Freedom Party. With the support of this gigantic ruling coalition, Kim, Young-Sam who had no military background became the 14th president in December 1992.
 
With the colorful track records of being one of the opposition party leaders, the president YS Kim initiated a number of big reform agendas that had tremendous rippling effects in the market as well as in the society as a whole. He initiated dismantling the unofficial personal networks within the military, put former president Chun and Roh under a trial of treason accountable for the military coup in 1980, public announcement of asset holdings and bank balances of high-ranking government officials, demolition of the building used as the Japanese Government-General of Korea symbolizing the move setting history straight, implemented the ‘Real-Name’ policy in financial transaction with presidential decree, initiated decentralization of the government, won the decision to host the World Cup event in 2002, recovery of the peacetime operational authority of the Korean military from UN, and experimented with collective ownership of lands by all citizens.
 
Another presidential agenda and political catchphrase during the president Kim’s tenure was ‘Seh-Kye-Wha,’ representing the trend of globalizing world. It became the guiding principle in terms of policy-making promoting deregulation and in terms of social propaganda promoting ‘global standards’ for almost every aspects of the society. He further attempted alleviating government influences over the market sector, and he announced the end of the strategic planning of economic and social development. Subsequently, he merged the Economic Planning Board and the Ministry of Finance in December 1994, creating the Ministry of Finance and Economy but maintained the status of a vice prime minister of the head of the ministry. Unfortunately, deregulation of financial market among many other deregulations became one of the causes of the IMF crisis in 1997.
 
3. Public Administration
The era between 1980 and 1997 would mark the rise and fall of technocrats from the policy-making arena in central government of Korea. During the former president Chun’s administration, technocrats relied on the concentrated policy-making power of the president to advocate, adopt and implement economic and social policies. Compared to a more advanced democratic society, policy decisions were made much more efficiently and were implemented more effectively, partly due to the military culture of top commands bottom follows.
 
The role of the EPB and the chief economic advisor to the president played critical role in such endeavors, and many of the policy issues that were revolutionary in its nature got adopted and implemented. The frontline example of such was a drastic shift in economic development strategy involving the ‘Stabilization Policy’ from the very early stages of the Fifth Republic. Those policies being advocated went through series of heated debates among top policymakers and academic researchers, especially those in the EPB and the KDI. Due to this scrutinized examination of any policy ideas, the finalized recommendation to the president got approved with little modifications. In addition, those were relatively realistic and practical policy options to handle the social problems at hand, or were based on principles of market economy and fairness of competition. In other words, political considerations were removed from the choice of policy options most of times.
 
Scientific methods were adopted more vigorously, stressing efficient use of public resources and effective delivery of public projects especially in the areas of budgeting, tax and government procurements. Zero-based budgeting, automation of administrative functions using PCs, and so forth were those that exemplified advancement of modern public administration, initiated by those trained overseas in more advanced countries.
 
Towards the latter period under the former president Roh’s administration as well as Kim’s administration, frequently cited as the beginning of the democracy in Korea, more and more of political influences were felt on the policy choices that were remote from enhancing public values. Recognizing the lack of investments in infrastructure during Chun’s administration, president Roh adopted and implemented a series of big public projects such as construction of two satellite cities to Seoul, bullet train, Saemankeum reclamation project, updating military equipment (modernizing aircrafts), and so forth. Due to the concentrated policymaking power, such projects were adopted and implemented without detailed consultation within the government, not to mention with those outside the government. Continuing through the former president Kim’s administration, the role of technocrats gradually diminished in the areas of public policymaking, symbolized by the end of the EPB in 1994.
 
4. Law and Legislation
The period between 1980 and 1997 did not show big changes in the way the administration of law and legislations carried out. Most of the public attention and political interests were concentrated upon enhancing democracy in overall Korean society, and yet little attention was paid to changing institutional setups that would be more suitable for democratic society. Accordingly, more and more citizens perceived the judiciary branch of government as one of the extended arm of the politically powerful elite groups. And such perception got reinforced by corruptions at the highest level, including the former president Roh and the second-son of the former president Kim. In short, public trust on the judiciary and legislative branch of the government were eroding relatively quickly.
 
In terms of the administrative function of the judiciary branch and law enforcement, efficiency and effectiveness became the keywords once again in these areas, and computerization and modernization projects were adopted and implemented throughout the periods. The centralized policy forces were gradually filled with those graduated from the Korean National Police University (established in 1981) with more proper training base on more balanced curriculum. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, on the other hand, remained unchanged with continuous influx of highly educated candidates that had passed the highly competitive national bar examination. The internal culture of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office was often described as having similar characteristics to that of military where authorities were structured strictly hierarchical.

Source: Written by Kang, Youngouck(Asian Development Bank) in 2014 for K-Developedia