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Democratic performance and Park Chung-hee nostalgia in Korean democracy.

ALMOST A GENERATION AFTER THE THIRD WAVE OF DEMOCRATIZATION, citizens in emergent democracies manifest a resilient nostalgia toward former authoritarian regimes. What are the implications of this phenomenon for the consolidation and quality of emergent democracies? Though scholars have begun to pay more attention to this topic, few studies have attempted to analyze salient variables related to this nostalgia (Chang, Zhu, and Pak 2007; Ekman and Linde 2005). My study focuses on the case of South Korea. I seek to advance related scholarship in the realm of comparative democratic support.

In the context of emergent democracies, sentiment for a strong authoritarian leader is not unusual. (1) Yet in South Korea (hereafter Korea) nostalgia for the Park Chung-hee government (1963-1979) seems to differ in several ways from that seen in other emergent democracies. For one thing, political support for Park's government goes beyond a reverence for a charismatic leader. For instance, in almost all surveys, (2) Park has ranked consistently at the top of the list of former presidents whom citizens want to reelect and regard with the greatest respect. Moreover, according to the latest Korea Democracy Barometer (KDB) 2010 survey, more than one-third (34.9 percent) of the respondents selected Park's government as the best government after the 1960s. Political support for Park's government is wide enough to cover much more than a quarter (28.4 percent) of the progressive bloc and little more than a quarter (26.52 percent) of citizens from the Cholla region, political strongholds of the conservatives' political rival, Kim Dae-jung. (3)

Second, many citizens in Korea believe that Park Chung-hee laid the foundation for an economic miracle in Korea and respect him as the architect of the Korean model of economic development. One scholar called Park Chung-hee the founder of Korean-style economic development (Paik 2005). Citizens do not question this. According to the 2010 Korea Identity survey (East Asia Institute), almost all respondents (94.11 percent) said the Park government had played a positive role in economic growth, a figure well ahead of the score of so-called democratic governments, such as Kim Dae-jung (56.62 percent) and Roh Moo-hyun (58.59 percent).

Support for Park's government is a broad and complex phenomenon that goes beyond veneration for a former president. Dubbed the "Park Chung-hee nostalgia," (4) this sentiment among Korean citizens may account for the recent election of Park Guenhye, the first female president of Korea. Candidate of the ruling conservative New Frontier Party (Saenuri) and daughter of Park Chung-hee, Park Guen-hye won the 2012 presidential election with a narrow 3.5 percent margin over Moon Jae-in, a candidate from the Democratic United Party who had support from other opposition parties. Even though Park Guen-hye built her own political reputation as a principled politician and was perceived as the woman who could save the conservative party (the Grand National Party [GNP], which became the Saenuri Party), Park Chung-hee nostalgia unquestionably contributed to her victory. (5)

A second interesting feature of Korean nostalgia toward the authoritarian regime involves other emergent democracies. Although scholars generally consider Korea, Taiwan, and Japan to be liberal democracies (Diamond 2008a, 2008b), and Korea a miraculous success (Hahm 2008), a recent study has pointed to the "Asian Puzzle" (Chu and Huang 2010), that is, the tendency in these countries to procrastinate in regard to deepening democracy. In this context, the existence of the Park Chung-hee nostalgia in one of the few new liberal democracies in the region poses interesting questions. Is there, for example, any significant relationship between the Park Chung-hee nostalgia and slippage of democratic support?

Elucidating the determinants of the Park Chung-hee nostalgia can have significant implications for improving our understanding of the current status of Korean democracy, as well as its future prospects. Many studies have attempted to analyze the main characteristics of government in the Park era, along with the legacies his regime left behind. (6) Surprisingly few studies, (7) however, have investigated the solid support of Korean citizens for Park's government. My study attempts to fill this gap by analyzing the latest data on Korean democracy as measured by the KDB, and in doing so contribute to the debates surrounding nostalgia toward authoritarian regimes in emergent democracies as well as to the more general scholarship on Korean democracy.

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses

Political support tends to be a multidimensional phenomenon, and the case of Korea's Park Chung-hee government is no exception. In order to investigate this support, I employ the framework used by Ekman and Linde (2005) to analyze communist nostalgia in East and Central European democracies--with appropriate modifications. Ekman and Linde conceptually distinguished four different analytical dimensions of nostalgia: the life-biography dimension, the political-ideological dimension, and two socioeconomic dimensions. (8) Though the context of postcommunist countries in Europe may vary in many ways from the contexts of emergent Asian democracies, these dimensions provide a useful framework for examining political support for Korea's Park Chung-hee government.

The Life-Biography Dimension

The life-biography dimension brings into play the individual's selective memory and his/her experience of the past. Based on these memories and experiences, individuals who feel a sense of dissatisfaction with their new circumstances begin to compare their life under the authoritarian leader to that under the democratic government and conclude by developing nostalgia for the old regime. (9) For some of those who experienced rapid industrialization under Park Chung-hee's leadership, Park retains an image as the incarnation of modernization and the leader of national restoration who saved Korea from poverty. For others, however, Park Chung-hee and his era are recollected as the darkest days of authoritarian rule by force and human rights suppression. Accordingly, the life-biography dimension would be more salient to older Koreans who directly experienced Park's era.

This dimension might also be related to individuals' preferences for a central priority during the Park period: growth first. The most important achievement of Park's government was compressed economic growth. Compared to authoritarian regimes in the 1960s and 1970s in other countries, Korea's growth was an exceptional achievement. Thus, the collective memory of this accomplishment causes many Koreans to respect Park Chung-hee and maintain a positive retrospective image of his era. (10)

Economic success during the Park era would not have been possible without appropriate mass mobilization. Indeed, the success of the Park era is due to the combination of strong leadership and the public's strong desire to "live better" (jalsal ah bose). The history of Park's success left a deep growth-first ethos in Korean society. (11) Since democratization, however, this ethos often stands in conflict with democratic values. For citizens who firmly prefer the growth-first ethos, the democratic process often seems to be inefficient and even undesirable. For instance, according to the KDB, a little less than three-quarters (73.01 percent) of the respondents said that making people's lives better is more important than choosing leaders through free and competitive elections. Only one-quarter (25.4 percent) chose the latter as more important.

This choice is not necessarily related to political ideology. There is only a low correlation between self-placed political ideology (ten-point scale) and citizens' preferences for economic growth over democratization (-0.1145). In a similar vein, the correlation between citizens' authoritarian orientation toward strong leadership and their preference for economic growth is very low (0.0913). Also, there is no significant difference in the rate of those who prefer economic growth in the whole sample (48.31 percent) and citizens who hold a progressive ideology (40.13 percent).

Based on this discussion, one can expect that citizens who believe that Park's government was better than the current system are more likely to regard his national agenda (prioritizing economic development) highly, and are less likely to be tolerant of disorder during democratization. The hypotheses that follow from this first assertion are as follows:

HYPOTHESIS 1: The older the citizen, the more likely he or she is to select Park's government as the best since the 1960s.

HYPOTHESIS 1-1: The more a citizen prefers economic development over democratization, the more likely he or she is to choose Park's government as the best since the 1960s.

The Political-Ideology Dimension

The political-ideology dimension refers to the political orientation and ideology that citizens have as a consequence of their political socialization. In regard to Korean democracy, this dimension speaks to the following question: To what extent does political ideology play a role in an individual's political support for Park's government? After democratization under the governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, the issue of ideology became more salient in Korea (Lee 2011). Ideological conflict became an important component of political competition, serving as a dividing line for Korean society. Nevertheless, the most important factors determining ideological conflict were, and continue to be, political issues rather than socioeconomic ones. As recent studies (W. T. Kang 2013) have demonstrated, political factors related to inter-Korean relationships and the Korea-US relationship continue to be determining factors of ideological conflict in Korea, while economic issues such as taxes, welfare, and the free trade agreement are less salient.

While Park was in power, constrained by threats to security at the domestic level and the Cold War in the international context, he publicly declared anticommunism to be kuksi (the national essence). In fact, during the Park era, competition with North Korea was the driving force behind rapid industrialization. Anticommunism as a national ideology later faced dissolution with the breakdown of the Cold War at the international level, and might have been further diminished as a consequence of the historic summit conference between Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, at a time when Kim Dae-jung was pursuing his engagement policy--known as the Sunshine Policy--at the domestic level. Ironically, however, this constant push only further inflamed the ideological conflict surrounding views on North Korea.

The political-ideology dimension could provide a useful framework for the analysis of support for Park's government by Korean citizens today. Specifically, those who hold a conservative political ideology--one that is staunchly anticommunist--have been shown to be more likely to support Park's government. The specific path by which such individuals come to have strong support for Park's government may differ, however. At least three types of supporting groups can be differentiated. The first contains those individuals who were part of the broad ruling coalition that encompassed the ruling party, bureaucrats, the military, and conservative intellectuals. This group would also include those who were part of the mass support that Park secured at that time, through either coercion or consensus. (12) A second group represents those who, like the new right, were originally critical of Park's government. These individuals came to support Park partly because of certain moments important to them (such as the collapse of socialism and the International Monetary Fund economic crisis in 1997) and partly because of the general process of becoming more conservative with age. Finally, a third group includes those who did not experience Park's government but who may be supportive of it due to their political orientation and particular personal experiences that would cause acceptance of a more conservative stance. Indeed, many young conservative organizations have emerged recently in Korea, emphasizing both the rule of law and security, and preaching the importance of safeguarding liberal democracy. Among these organizations is the Confederation of College Students for a Good Society, the Korean College Student Forum, and the Confederation of Young Future Leaders (SisaIn 2010).

The political ideology of Korean citizens often varies according to their attitude toward North Korea and their preference for positive inter-Korean relationships as espoused by the Sunshine Policy. To measure this variable, I used questionnaires that asked respondents about their attitude toward a policy on pro-North Korean groups within Korea.

The method of inquiry for the political-ideology variable was shaped by the difficulty of measuring political support for a specific government according to a broad, self-report ideology measure. In order to specify why a respondent would select Park's government as the best among several other conservative Korean governments, a more precise question was needed. As revealed in a recent survey of both experts and citizens (Joongang ilbo 2010), Park's strong leadership was an essential reason why his government was highly valued. In fact, his approach is frequently called CEO leadership (Hong 2005; Oh 2006) because its focus was on attaining a goal, often bypassing democratic procedures. The Park Chung-hee nostalgia, then, may represent nostalgia for this sort of strong leadership. To test the political-ideology dimension I measured three additional predispositions to describe a citizen's inclination for a strong leader: attaining a goal, no compromise, and ignoring minority opinion. (13) The specific wording is reported in the appendix to this article.

The discussion above forms the basis for the hypotheses related to the political ideology dimension of political support:

HYPOTHESIS 2: Citizens who have a more conservative ideology have a higher probability of choosing Park's government as the best.

HYPOTHESIS 2-1: Citizens who hold an authoritarian orientation toward a strong leadership are more likely to choose Park's government as the best.

HYPOTHESIS 2-2: Those who hold a negative attitude toward a contemporary pro-North Korean group in Korea are more likely to choose Park's government as the best.

The Economic Performance Dimension

Lastly, the dimension of economic performance distinguishes economic performance at the individual level from the regime level. In general, individual-level performance refers to one's perceptions of a family's economic condition, while system-level performance is often measured in terms of national economic conditions.

According to the institutional perspective on political support proposed by Mishler and Rose (1997), political support is a function of a citizen's demand (expectation) and regime performance. That is, the better the regime performance, the greater the level of political support. Typically, researchers analyze political support in emergent democracies according to both economic performance and political performance. (14) However, since the primary purpose of my study is to analyze the nostalgia of Korean citizens for an authoritarian regime, it makes more sense to focus solely on economic performance. From this perspective, it is possible to understand a citizen's strong support for Park's government in one of two ways: as a response to a perceived output deficit or dissatisfaction with economic performance under the democratic regime (regime level), or as perceived individual economic hardship (individual level).

In order to understand the important relationship between economic performance and Park Chung-hee nostalgia, it is useful to discuss the dual challenges that Korea, like other emergent democracies in East Asia, is now facing. Both of these challenges relate to democratic performance. First, whether due to deliberate ideological mobilization (15) or based firmly in reality, Park's government is recalled by citizens as the administration with the most economically efficient governance. (16) That challenge to Korean democracy stems from the legacy of past success. But in addition, Korea, like other democracies in the region, faces a current challenge from economically competitive but politically authoritarian neighbors such as China and Singapore. (17) Under these conditions, in Korea, where the embrace of democratic values is still in progress, citizens easily lean toward nostalgia for a strong leader who is perceived to be the architect of the Korean economic model if they still perceive an output deficit in the democratic system, even after more than twenty years of experience with it.

A comparative perspective can help to highlight the particular attributes of nostalgia toward a strong leader in Korea. Like many East Asian authoritarian governments, Park's government in Korea allowed at least limited pluralism: a combination of some degree of electoral competition and the existence of the opposition (Chang, Zhu, and Pak 2007). In addition, the mode of transition was relatively incremental, through a peaceful pact among elites rather than by revolution from below. Taken together, these factors may explain why citizens in Korea may not have noticed the dramatic improvement in political rights after democratization. In other words, it is possible that citizens in Korea are more likely to underestimate the important improvements in political rights that they achieved through democratization and to be less tolerant of the socioeconomic weakness of the democratic regimes that followed Park Chung-hee.

If economic performance matters, what kind would influence the evaluations of past governments by Korean citizens? Generally, economic growth, unemployment, and inflation are important factors at the macro level, whereas perceptions of both the national economy and the family economy take precedence at the individual level. This dichotomy reflects the two different levels of economic performance discussed earlier (Ekman and Linde 2005). However, I argue that the perceptions of Korean citizens about the efficacy of democracy and about inequality in Korea are better measures of their political support for Park's government than the perceptions of economic conditions. According to the economic performance model, authoritarian nostalgia is "brought about by a perceived output deficit, and related to a general discontent with the democratic system's performance ability" (Ekman and Linde 2005, 357). If this is true, short-term economic performance would not be a relevant indicator of system performance unless poor performance persisted over an extended period of time (Dalton 2004).

To what kind of system-related indicator do we need to pay attention? If political support is a function of citizen demand and supply, it is necessary to discuss what citizens expect in a new democratic regime. Despite the widely accepted procedural definition of democracy, according to a recent comparative study (Shin and Cho 2010), citizens in East Asian democracies give almost equal weight to economic quality and political quality as the essence of democracy. This trend is particularly strong in Korea, where more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) perceived economic equality to be the essence of democracy, followed by political freedom (15 percent) and fairness of elections. Significantly, the percentage of Koreans who emphasize economic equality is more than twice (14.8 percent) that of other East Asian democracies.

Since support for Park's government is a retrospective judgment based on a comparison between Park's performance and that of the democratic regimes that followed, a brief comparison of the two would be instructive here. First, we need to recall that the strength of the "East Asian model" is not only in attaining impressive economic growth but also in maintaining a relatively equal distribution of wealth. That is, the rapid economic growth in the East not only directly contributed to the expansion of national wealth and the development of the national economy but also was accomplished with relatively low inequality. (18) Park's government was exemplary in this regard.

Second, the socioeconomic weaknesses of later democratic regimes, such as the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments, are significant. These weaknesses were evident in the rapidly rising inequality that occurred throughout Korea's economic recovery from the International Monetary Fund crisis that shook most of Asia (Choi 2012). Obviously, the IMF crisis itself caused inequality to worsen rapidly. In fact, the crisis may be the critical juncture at which the country began to build a new model for welfare that stopped subordinating the welfare system to the principle of developmentalism. (19) Yet, although the Kim Dae-jung government presented "parallel development of democracy and markets" as a national agenda, in reality the primary welfare policy was "productive welfare" that placed the highest priority on economic recovery and subordinated welfare. The Roh Moo-hyun government followed the lead of the Kim government. Though it realized the seriousness of the inequality in Korea and presented a "participatory welfare policy" that increased welfare spending, the Roh government made welfare provisions only marginal and residual. Accordingly, even though social welfare spending increased considerably during the democratic governments that followed Park Chung-hee, the inequality-reduction effect of these expenditures was minimal. (20) Not surprisingly, citizens' critical evaluations of Roh focused on the economic polarization that was exacerbated during his tenure. (21)

The rapidly worsening inequality in Korean society has resulted in widespread concern. According to the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) conducted in 2008, a large majority of respondents (90.25 percent) said income differences in Korea are too large. Further, around three-quarters (75.1 percent) of respondents agreed that the government has a responsibility to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor. Such evaluations may well be associated with Korean citizens' negative evaluations of the efficacy of democracy. Indeed, while Korean democracy has been consolidated successfully, many Koreans still do not have a strong belief in its efficacy. According to the 2010 KDB, just a little more than half (57.27 percent) of respondents held a positive evaluation of the efficacy of democracy. Surprisingly, citizens' belief in the efficacy of democracy actually deteriorated with increased experience with democratic governments. According to the Asian Barometer survey I conducted in 2001, a little less than three-quarters (71.55 percent) of respondents agreed with the statement, "Democracy is capable of solving the problems of our society." (22)

The discussion above illuminates the linkages between rising inequality, the policy ineptness of Korean democratic governments, and Korean citizens' dismal view of the efficacy of democracy. If satisfaction with democracy is dependent upon citizens' belief in the efficacy of democracy, the findings of relevant recent surveys should be interpreted as a negative sign for Korean democracy. I pose the following hypotheses regarding the perceived efficacy of democracy and the policy ineptness of democratic governments when it comes to inequality: (23)

HYPOTHESIS 3: Citizens who hold a negative perception of the efficacy of democracy are more likely to choose Park's government as the best.

HYPOTHESIS 3-1: Citizens who have a negative evaluation of the Kim Dae-jung government are more likely to select Park's government as the best.

HYPOTHESIS 3-2: Citizens who have a negative evaluation of the Roh Moo-hyun government are more likely to select Park's government as the best.

Variables, Measure, and Model

In this study I employ the results of the 2010 KDB survey to analyze the micro-foundations of political support by contemporary Korean citizens for the former Park Chung-hee government. The KDB is an excellent source of data for this purpose as it is the first survey to ask about citizen preferences regarding a number of governments--the Park administration to that of Lee Myungbak--as well as many other predispositions, such as political orientation and attitudes concerning the efficacy of democracy.

The dependent variable in this study was citizens' political support for Park's government. This variable was measured using the following question: "Which of these governments is the best government in your view?" I created a dummy variable, assigning 1 for those who chose the Park Chung-hee government and 0 for otherwise.

The main independent variable was measuring the efficacy of democracy. I assigned 1 for those who gave a negative answer to the question about the efficacy of democracy. If an individual's support for Park's government was a result of disappointment with democratic performance, as economic performance theory would predict, critical evaluation of democratic government (the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments) would be significantly related to support for Park's government. In order to test this proposition, I created two separate variables related to critical views of democratic governments, assigning 1 to those who said that the Kim and Roh governments were the worst governments, and 0 for otherwise.

In addition, I included citizen perceptions of economic inequality as an independent variable. Measuring inequality is a difficult task because the KDB did not ask respondents direct questions about whether economic inequality has increased or decreased. Therefore, I created a proxy variable for inequality from two variables, the first measured by a question about equal treatment and another about citizens' views of the priority of either reducing poverty or improving political freedom (see the appendix for specific wordings). Based on these two variables, I created a new variable, citizens' perceptions of inequality, and assigned 1 to those who perceived that not everyone is treated equally and that reducing poverty is urgent, 0 for otherwise. This approach provided a more reliable measure of citizens' perceptions of inequality than simply using the standard question about perceptions of the status of inequality, since it included views of unequal treatment of citizens by the government.

In order to measure perceptions of economic performance at the individual level, I used a standard question about family economic conditions. Alternately, to measure economic performance at the system level, I used a question about the national economy. The KDB asked respondents about the current status of the economy and whether it was better or worse than conditions one year earlier. Thus, four variables measured standard economic performance. All were coded on a five-point scale, with a higher value correlating with more negative evaluation.

The political-ideology dimension was measured using questions based on self-reported political ideology and authoritarian orientation. Political ideology was coded on a ten-point scale, from 1 for most conservative to 10 for most progressive. Authoritarian orientation, as discussed earlier, was measured based on three questions about strong leadership. Also regarding inter-Korean relationships, as discussed earlier, I used a question about a citizen's attitude toward a government policy on pro-North Korean groups.

The life-biography dimension was measured using questions about the respondent's age and view of the priority of economic development versus democracy. Unfortunately, the KDB 2010 did not ask a question that directly compared the citizen's view of life under Park's government with that under the later democratic regimes. Accordingly, I employed a proxy variable, asking whether economic development or democratization is more important. As discussed earlier, the main achievement during Park's government was its impressive economic growth. I also included several control variables, such as region (North Gyeonsang and Cholla), education, income, gender, and perceived corruption of the Lee Myung-bak government.


Since the primary purpose here is to examine the determinants of citizens' political support for Park's government and their implications for Korean democracy, it is useful to examine the different types of supporters of Park's government in the light of democratic values and principles.

Types of Supporters of Park's Government

Are the supporters of Park's government authoritarian citizens or democrats? If the latter is the case, what kind of democrats are they? Given the purposes of this study, these are highly salient questions. In answering them, I use the framework of Chu and Huang (2010) to analyze the Asian puzzle--that is, the procrastination of ordinary citizens when it comes to embracing democratic principles. According to Chu and Huang, two criteria that are highly important indicators are support for democratic principles and a belief in the intrinsic importance of liberal democratic values.

Table 1 presents the results of this categorization. Interestingly, the largest groups of Park supporters are, like the original sample of the 2010 KDB, consistent democrats. That is, 41 percent of supporters of Park's government uphold both democracy and liberal democratic values. The difference between this group and the KDB's sample is 8.27 percent. A little less than a quarter (23.64 percent) of Park's supporters are critical democrats. Those who belong to this group are critical of democracy but hold many of the values of liberal democracy. This group is slightly larger than the original sample (the difference is 4.22 percent). The third group can be characterized as superficial democrats who strongly support democracy but do not uphold the values of liberal democracy. This group is almost the same size as the original sample and has the smallest difference among democrats (just over 1 percent). Finally, nondemocrats are the smallest group of Park supporters. Members of this group reported neither supporting democracy nor subscribing to the values of liberal democracy.

This analysis of the data reveals that political supporters of Park's government consist of different groups in terms of their support for democracy and internalization of the values of liberal democracy. Overall, there is no notable difference between the original sample and supporters of Park's government. Comparing the two largest groups, consistent democrats are underrepresented in the supporter sample and critical democrats are overrepresented. This implies that those who hold the values of liberal democracy but are critical of the reality of democracy in Korea are more likely to support Park's government, whereas those who hold the same values and also support the reality of democracy in Korea are relatively less supportive of Park's government.

My analysis demonstrates that a solid base of political support exists for Park's government, one that we cannot attribute to political mobilization or authoritarian nostalgia alone. Indeed, only a little more than a quarter of Park's supporters belong to either superficial democrat or nondemocrat (28.53 percent) categories, and the difference between them and the original sample is minimal. (24) Thus, what are the determinants of citizens' political support for Park's government? In the next section, I present a causal analysis.

Political Support for Park's Government

In order to estimate the independent effects of each model on citizens' support for Park's government, I conducted a logit analysis of the determinants of preferences for Park's government. In addition, since it is difficult to interpret the explanatory power of each variable directly from the coefficient in the logit model, I calculated marginal effects (average and maximum variation). Table 2 reports these results, which overall confirm the main theoretical expectation that citizens' critical evaluations of democratic efficacy and democratic governments are among the most important determinants of their support for Park's government.

Overall, the empirical analysis confirmed the relevance of the life-biography model. First, as Table 2 elucidates, age had significant explanatory power in an expected direction: the older the respondent, the higher the probability of choosing Park's government as the best since the 1960s. Second, a citizen's preference for economic development over democratization had a very strong and expected effect on the preference for Park's government. That is, citizens who believed that economic development is more important than democratization were more likely to choose Park's government as the best. Based on this result, we may accept Hypotheses 1 and 1-1. This result may well reflect the strong legacy of Park's government and the firmly rooted growth-first mentality of the Korean people, (25) who respect Park Chung-hee as the architect of the Korean economic model.

As for the political-ideology model, none of the five variables in it is significant. Self-reported political ideology, measured according to a ten-point scale, was not significantly related to political support for Park's government. Moreover, an authoritarian orientation toward strong leadership did not have a significant effect on a preference for Park's government. (26) Given that many surveys confirm that citizens revere Park Chung-hee as a strong leader, this was an unexpected result, one that resonates with Park and Shin's 2006 study pointing out the complex relationship between Asian values and regime support. (27) Further, the relationships between Park support and attitudes toward the pro-North Korea group failed to reach a significant level. Based on these results, it is possible to safely reject Hypotheses 2, 2-1, and 2-2.

Third, several variables related to the economic performance of democratic regimes turned out to be very strong determinants of Park support in an expected direction. Clearly, a citizen's negative evaluation of democratic government does matter. As Table 2 clearly illuminates, this variable was the strongest factor in determining a preference for Park's government. The strongest effect was found in relation to negative evaluations of the Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung governments, with a marginal effect of 0.256 and 0.150, respectively. Thus, all things being equal, those who were critical of the democratic regimes had around 26 percent and 15 percent probability of preferring Park's government. (28)

In a similar vein, as discussed earlier, the failure of policymakers to deal with rapidly rising inequality during the democratic governments deepened the public's concern with inequality. As the results in Table 2 indicate, those who held a negative evaluation of the efficacy of democracy were more likely to prefer Park's government to democratic ones. Citizens' perceptions of inequality also had a strong effect on their political support for Park's regime.

As many studies of economic voting in Korea have noted, citizens view their individual pocketbooks as less important than the national economic conditions (Jung and Kwon 2008). Put simply, those who believed Park's government was best were dissatisfied with the current status of the national economy. Indeed, many previous observations on the Park Chung-hee nostalgia have pointed to a direct relationship with the economic hardship people experienced during the economic crisis (Kang 2010). As discussed earlier, however, without employing a relevant measure to gauge performance at the system level, this association should be interpreted with caution. Taken together, however, I can say that political support for Park's government was based mainly on perceptions of a performance deficit during the democratic regimes. This finding is consistent with Ekman and Linde's (2005) analysis of Eastern and Central Europe.

Several control variables also are important. As Table 2 demonstrates, education affected a citizen's preference. Those who hold less education are more likely to possess Park Chunghee nostalgia. Also, those whose hometown was North Gyeongsang Province, the same as Park Chung-hee's, were more likely to prefer his government, while those whose hometown was Cholla, the political hometown of Kim Dae-jung, were significantly less likely to choose Park's government. This finding is consistent with previous analyses of political support for Park Chung-hee as a former president (Kang 2010). At the same time, GNP identifiers tended to be strong Park government supporters. Thus, regional cleavage clearly mattered with regard to nostalgia for Park's government.

The findings corroborate the main hypothesis of my study regarding the importance of the economic performance model at the system level. Even after controlling for the alternative hypotheses and control variables, citizens' critical evaluation of democratic governments and their skepticism of the democratic capability for solving the problems in Korean society clearly are related to their support for Park's government, as Hypotheses 3, 3-1, and 3-2 predict. The life-biography model also obtained empirical support. Put simply, these findings suggest that contemporary Korean citizens' support for Park's government is a multidimensional phenomenon.


The main purpose of my study is to examine the micro-foundations of solid political support for the Park Chung-hee government. Empirical analyses confirm the relevance of both the economic performance model at the system level and the life-biography model as determinants of this support. Based on the results, we may say that the Park Chung-hee nostalgia is double-sided. On one hand, it is based on a retrospective collective memory. The older the citizen, the more likely he or she is to have political nostalgia for Park's government. On the other hand, those who highly regard the prioritizing of economic development over democratization, consistent with Park's national agenda, tend to be more supportive of his regime. Indeed, Park's compressed economic growth left a strong legacy--a growth-centered tradition that has functioned as a governing ideology. More important for Korea today is that this ethos often conflicts with democratic principles. Under the structural conditions that Korean democracy is now facing, those who firmly believe in the ideology of growth may be less tolerant of democratic disorder. (29)

Authoritarian nostalgia is a challenge that many emergent democracies are now facing, from Eastern and Central Europe to Latin America. Despite some common components, however, the Park Chung-hee nostalgia in Korea differs in several ways from the nostalgia found in other emergent democracies. Since Park is widely perceived as the architect of the Korean model of development, citizens' preference for Park is based somewhat on his performance. But it is also based on citizens' critical view of the performance deficit of later democratic governments in dealing with inequality. This authoritarian nostalgia represents not only reverence for a charismatic leader but also a more systematic phenomenon. We may not be able to blame the rapidly increasing inequality in Korea solely on the ineptness of its democratic governments. Nevertheless, Korean citizens lay a reasonable emphasis on economic equality as an essential element of democracy, and the democratic governments since Park indisputably have not been able to deal effectively with fundamental socioeconomic issues.

Another essential question to be considered is whether the nostalgia for Park's government poses a political threat to the consolidation of Korean democracy. The results of my study suggest that this is not necessarily the case (W. Kang 2013). As demonstrated in Table 1, the largest group of Park supporters is composed of people who support democracy and hold strongly to liberal democratic values. In addition, the correlation between support for Park's government and an authoritarian orientation (which was created by combining three variables from Table 2) is very low (0.0615). As Park and Shin (2006) aptly elucidate, so-called Asian values are not significantly related to regime support. Still, my findings ironically imply that support for democracy in Korea is more instrumental than intrinsic (Kang 2010).

However, when it comes to the question of how to improve the quality of Korean democracy, a resilient Park Chung-hee nostalgia would be an important challenge for the future of Korean democracy. Clearly, Park Chung-hee's authoritarian model is not a feasible model for modern Korean society. A resilient Park Chung-hee nostalgia would be fertile political soil for a strong leader should Korean society face economic stagnation in the future.

The findings also have important policy implications for the future of emergent democracies, including Korean democracy. Many transitional democracies have been stalled and threatened by the growth of inequality and pronounced economic polarization (Fukuyama 2011). In order to stabilize such emergent democracies, a "democratic government must win citizens' support through better performance, both in political and policy terms" (Chu and Huang 2009, 154). If a young democratic regime enables citizens to believe in democracy's ability to resolve the central issues that many emergent democracies face, the nostalgia for an authoritarian regime would fade from memory.
Appendix: Original Wording of Main Variables

                              Which of the following governments
Dependent variable            is the best government?

Economic performance model

Inequality                    Do we need to place emphasis first on
                                narrowing the gap between the rich
                                and poor or on the protection of
                                political freedom?
                              Does government treat everyone equally?

Efficacy of democracy         Do you think democracy can solve the
                                problems in our society?
                                (1. Democracy can solve the problems;
                                2. Democracy cannot solve
                                the problems)

Negative evaluation of
democratic government         Which of the following is the worst
                                government? (Kim Dae-jung government;
                                Roh Moo-hyun government)

Economic condition            Overall, how much do you think the
                                national (family) economic condition
                                is good or bad? (1. Very good;
                                2. Somewhat good; 3. Neither good
                                nor bad; 4. Somewhat bad;
                                5. Very bad)

Economic condition

compared to one year ago      Compared to one year ago, how much do
                                you think the national (family)
                                economic condition has gotten worse
                                or better? (1. Much better;
                                2. A little bit better;
                                3. Similar/same; 4. A little bit
                                worse; 5. Much worse)

Life-biography model

Age                           How old are you now?

Economic development          Which national agenda do you think
                                would be more important: economic
                                development or democratization?

Political-ideology model

Ideology                      Assuming 1 for very conservative
                                and 10 for very progressive, where
                                do you place your political ideology?

Attaining goals               Even if ignoring existing order,
                                attaining a goal should be more
                                important to political leaders.

No compromise                 If a leader believes his view is
                                correct, he should not compromise
                                with the opponents even though
                                they are many.

Ignoring minority opinion     If a leader gets majority support,
                                he can ignore the minority opinion.

Attitude toward pro-North     Do you agree that our government
Korean group                    should take measures to make a
                                pro-North Korean group illegal?
                                (1. Strongly agree; 2. Somewhat
                                agree; 3. Somewhat disagree;
                                4. Strongly disagree)


WooJin Kang is assistant professor of political science and diplomacy at Kyungpook National University, Korea. He was a POSCO visiting fellow at East-West Center of Hawaii University and visiting professor at the Research Institute of Korean Studies of Korea University. His research focuses on comparative political behavior and political economy of democratization. His recent publications can be found in International Political Science Review and Korea Political Science Review, among others. He can be reached at An earlier version of this article was presented as a paper at the 2013 Southern Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

(1.) Among the notable examples are the lingering legacy of Francisco Franco in Spain and Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

(2.) In almost all surveys up to 2010, Park Chung-hee ranked at the top both in terms of respondents' preferences and their performance evaluations of former presidents. This record is not limited to surveys of the general public; according to a recent survey of 100 experts conducted by the Joongang ilbo (2010), titled "A Seeking for National Leadership," Park gets the highest points in the most important areas, such as performance and vision, capability for agenda setting, administrative operation, and economic management. In regard to overall contributions, he also ranks well ahead of the second-place finisher. According to an August 2009 survey, "most Koreans, 53.4 percent of respondents, credit Park among all its leaders for providing the greatest contribution to Korea, well ahead of President Kim Dae-jung (25.4 percent), who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his fight for democracy against Park" (Joongang ilbo 2010).

(3.) For a more detailed analysis of the socioeconomic backgrounds of supporters of Park's government, see W. Kang (2013).

(4.) One scholar defines this nostalgia as "a large number of Koreans [who] reconstruct the social memory of the former authoritarian leader as nationalist hero and are nostalgic of the time of his regime" (Lee 2009, 42).

(5.) As one of the reviewers of my article points out, her victory can also be attributed to the popularity of her father. But as recent polls (Newswire 2014) demonstrate, his popularity has dropped (to 27.6 percent), yielding the top position to Roh Moo-hyun (36.9 percent). Also, my study's focus is on citizens' lingering support for the Park Chung-hee government rather than for Park as the former president.

(6.) Recent studies (Cho 2008; Yoo 2011) attempt to systematically analyze characteristics of Park's regime and its legacies. For a recent comprehensive analysis of the Park era with a historical approach, see Kim and Bogel (2011).

(7.) I can identify only one article (Kang 2010) that attempts to empirically analyze political support for Park Chung-hee and not for his government.

(8.) These four dimensions are not necessarily exclusive of each other, but it is useful to distinguish them at the analytical level. This study substantially modifies their framework to make it more relevant to the Korean context.

(9.) In Ekman and Linde's framework (2005, 356), this entails "a retrospective revaluation of life under communism partly as a response to a perceived threat: deprecation of own life experience."

(10.) In fact, according to a recent survey of citizens' views of who contributed most to Korean industrialization, Park ranks at the top with a little less than three-quarters of the respondents (73.4 percent) (Choson ilbo 2010).

(11.) Among the notable examples is the so-called new town (new apartment) boom that contributed to the landslide victory of the Grand National Party (the incumbent conservative party) in Seoul in the Eighteenth National Election. The GNP won forty seats out of forty-eight in Seoul. Twenty-eight GNP candidates promised the development of a new town. This was the final straw that blew away opponents in a very close election in Seoul.

(12.) The debate on the so-called mass dictatorship is beyond the scope of my article. But there is ongoing debate on the nature of Park's dictatorship. For the mass dictatorship perspective, see Lim and Kim (2004).

(13.) There might be a possibility of multicollinearity among the three indicators, as the first reviewer of my article points out. So I conducted a correlation analysis, which revealed a relative low among the factors, ranging from -0.0760 (between attaining goal and ignoring minority opinion) to 0.2420 (between no compromise and attaining goal).

(14.) As for political performance, among the important factors are fairness of election, vertical accountability, and horizontal accountability. Since these variables are related to the quality of the democracy, to expect that nostalgia toward an authoritarian regime would be based on these factors isn't reasonable. As a result, my study employs an economic performance model like that of Ekman and Linde (2005).

(15.) Indeed, Korean conservative newspapers such as Choson ilbo and Joongang ilbo attempted to revive Park Chung-hee and his era by publishing a series of articles praising his leadership and the achievements of his government. One of the outcomes of this effort was published by Cho (2006). A decisive moment in the political revival of Park Chung-hee would be the political rise of his daughter. But the first moment was the 1997 presidential election, during which Rhee In-Je, a third-party candidate who split from the New Korea Party, paid homage to Park Chung-hee as his role model and mimicked his appearance.

(16.) Debate is ongoing as to whether democratic regimes or Park's regime performed better. According to specific indicators of the quality of democracy, democratic regimes outperformed Park's government (Im 2011). According to one perspective, efficient governance and economic policy are also mythical (Yoo 2011). In regard to this, Park (2009) points out that the Korean model of a developmental state created a continuous crisis because of the Park regime's lack of capacity to respond reasonably to economic constraints, such as a democratic system and fair distribution.

(17.) For instance, a Singapore model, whose characteristics are efficient governance, high economic growth, low corruption, and an authoritarian one-party state, is an example for other authoritarian countries attempting to attain economic development without political liberalization (Ortmann 2011). But for Korea, which has already established an electoral democracy, the existence of authoritarian governments with competitive economic performances lends itself to citizens' disappointment with economic performances under democratic regimes that fall short of their expectation.

(18.) There are many studies on this point. An exemplary one is from the United Nations (1999). According to a recent study, during the Park Chunghee era, Korean society attained high economic growth, poverty reduction, and improvement of inequality--unprecedented achievements during the 1960s and 1970s (Kim et al. 2011). From the citizen's viewpoint, Park's period was perceived as a time when many people worked hard together to live better, without serious inequality.

(19.) Here developmentalism means that like other East Asian countries such as Japan and Taiwan, Korea's welfare system was subordinated to the foremost national goal of economic growth (Kwon 2005). This system emphasizes policy efficiency and promotion of private sources of welfare.

(20.) According to one study, as of 2009, the poverty reduction effect remains at 13.9 percent, just 10 percent of the average (149 percent) of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Koh 2011).

(21.) According to one survey (Joongang ilbo 2006), citizens had a very low assessment of the Roh Moo-hyun government's attempt to resolve the gap between the rich and the poor (1.85 out of 5) and stabilize prices (1.86 out of 5). In addition, they ranked the performance of the Roh Moo-hyun government in these areas lowest among all other areas of the national agenda. Citizens assessed the Roh government's attempt to resolve the gap between the rich and the poor (1.85 out of 5) to be lowest and price stabilization (1.86 out of 5) to be second lowest among all areas of the national agenda. For a recent analysis of the political consequences of citizens' critical evaluation of Roh Moo-hyun, see Kang (2015).

(22.) My study (Kang 2012) confirms this linkage, demonstrating that citizens' perceptions of rapidly rising inequality resulted in a critical view of the capability of democracy to solve the problem.

(23.) Additionally, I would like to test the impact of citizen perceptions of corruption in the Lee Myung-bak government, the incumbent administration at the time of this study. A well-developed line of research connects perceived corruption, political support, and regime legitimacy in new democracies. Specifically in emergent democracies, perceived corruption is likely to erode political support for the regime and reduce interpersonal trust (Chang and Chu 2006; Rothstein 2011; Seligson 2002).

(24.) An alternative explanation may be drawn, as one of the reviewers suggested. For instance, 48 percent of nondemocrats support the Park government while only 30.5 percent of consistent democrats support it. Based on the main substantive interest of my study, analyzing support of the Park government within each category seems more relevant than dividing each category into Park's supporters and nonsupporters.

(25.) Ironically, this growth-first ethos has been even stronger since democratization began in South Korea. As Korea has gone through unprecedented economic crisis under democratic regimes, a discourse has emerged that democracy is not always competent in reviving the economy (Jang, Kim, and Jung 2006).

(26.) As discussed earlier, there is a relatively low correlation among three indicators of strong leadership. But in order to confirm the result of my study, I conducted additional analyses with a new variable created by collapsing the three variables. This additional analysis confirmed that a citizen's orientation toward a strong leadership is not significantly related to support for the Park government.

(27.) According to one multivariate analysis, Asian values do not matter with regard to regime support. Also, interestingly, "even those attached to Asian values still are supportive of democracy" (Park and Shin 2006, 360).

(28.) Interestingly, additional analysis reveals that citizens' negative evaluations of the Kim Young-sam and Lee Myung-bak governments do not significantly influence their support for Park's government. As a result, it is possible to say that their leaning toward Park's government may result from their disappointment in so-called democratic government.

(29.) Hirschman (1991) in his excellent essay conceptualizes this phenomenon as "the jeopardy thesis."


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Table 1 Classification of Supporters of Park's Government

                                         of Park's      Difference
Type of Democrat         Sample (A)    Government (B)    (A - B)

Consistent democrat     49.30% (495)    41.03% (151)       8.27
Critical democrat       19.42% (195)    23.64% (87)       -4.22
Superficial democrat    16.04% (161)    17.12% (63)       -1.08
Non-democrat             8.67% (87)     11.41% (42)       -2.74
Others                   6.57% (66)      6.79% (25)       -0.22
Total                   100% (1,004)     100% (368)

Source: Korea Democracy Barometer (KDB) 2010 survey, author's

Notes: This typology is based on two criteria: support
for democracy and liberal democratic value (Chu and Huang 2010).
Numbers in parentheses are the number of observations.

Table 2 Logit Analysis of Determinants of Political
Support for Park's Government

Variables                              Coef. (Std. Error)

Economic performance model
Efficacy of democracy                   0.461(0.173) ***
Perception of Inequality                0.337 (0.165) *
Roh government evaluation              1.065 (0.262) ***
Kim Dae-jung government evaluation      0.629 (0.294) *
National economic condition             0.278 (0.113) *
  National condition (1 year ago)        -0.152 (0.113)
  Family economic condition              0.176 (0.132)
  Family condition (1 year ago)          -0.113 (0.139)
Political-ideology model
  Political ideology                     -0.003 (0.043)
  Attainment of goal                     0.057 (0.248)
  No compromise with opposition           0.245 (.211)
  Ignorance of minority opinion          -0.028 (0.194)
  Attitude toward pro-NK group           -0.209 (0.017)
Life-biography model
  Age                                  0.040 (0.007) ***
  Economic growth                       0.404 (0.163) *
Corruption of Myung-bak governmenl       -0.202 (0.132)
North Gyeongsang                         0.420 (0.224)
Cholla                                 -0.661 (0.239) **
GNP                                     0.605 (0.186) **
Education                               -0.166 (0.082) *
Income                                   0.005 (0.008)
Male                                     0.103 (0.165)
Constant                               -2.898 (0.881) **
N of observation                              891
Pseudo R-square                              0.1867

                                        Marginal Effect

Variables                              Average   Min=>Max

Economic performance model
Efficacy of democracy                   0.106      0.106
Perception of Inequality                0.075      0.075
Roh government evaluation               0.256      0.256
Kim Dae-jung government evaluation      0.150      0.150
National economic condition             0.061      0.431
  National condition (1 year ago)      -0.034     -0.223
  Family economic condition             0.039      0.285
  Family condition (1 year ago)        -0.025     -0.168
Political-ideology model
  Political ideology                   -0.001     -0.006
  Attainment of goal                    0.013      0.013
  No compromise with opposition         0.056      0.056
  Ignorance of minority opinion        -0.006     -0.065
  Attitude toward pro-NK group         -0.006     -0.187
Life-biography model
  Age                                   0.009      0.5191
  Economic growth                       0.090      0.090
Corruption of Myung-bak governmenl     -0.045      0.1350
North Gyeongsang                        0.098      0.098
Cholla                                 -0.136     -0.136
GNP                                     0.138      0.138
Education                              -0.037     -0.2432
Income                                  0.001      0.1191
Male                                    0.023      0.023
N of observation
Pseudo R-square

Source: Korea Democracy Barometer (KDB) 2010 survey.
Notes: Min=>Max in the marginal value denotes a maximum
change in predicted probabilities when a variable is not
a dummy variable. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001
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Date:Jan 1, 2016
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