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Signaling democracy: patron-client relations and democratization in South Korea and Poland.

Facing massive protests, why did incumbent regimes in both South Korea and Poland repress movements for democratization in the early 1980s but make democratic concessions to the opposition in the late 1980s? I demonstrate how the United States and the Soviet Union as superpower patron states influenced democratic transitions in South Korea and Poland. The different outcomes across time are partially attributed to superpower policies toward their client states. Absent in 1980 were strong, credible signals from the United States and the Soviet Union to their respective client states to support political liberalization. But in the late 1980s superpowers affected the calculus of client state elites by either signaling or encouraging governments to make concessions to the opposition.

KEYWORDS: democratization, signaling, patron-client relations, international pressure, Cold War, regime change, authoritarianism, security, South Korea, Poland


The democratic transitions literature largely remains within the realm of comparative politics, focusing on domestic structures and agents when studying the internal transformation of political systems and institutions. Consequently, the international dimension stays in the background while factors emphasizing mass mobilization or elite bargaining take center stage.

In this article, I explore the international dimensions of democratization by focusing on superpower-client relations. Specifically, I examine US-South Korean and Soviet-Polish relations to show how superpowers affect the democratization process within their client states. Although most scholars acknowledge that international influences play at least a peripheral role in Korea's and Poland's democratic transition, political scientists traditionally use elite bargaining or mass-based theories to explain these two cases. My goal is to assess the salience of international influences by clarifying the role the superpowers played in expanding the opportunities for democratization by directly altering the strategic calculus of both elites and opposition forces in South Korea and Poland. The overarching goal of this article is not to challenge domestic explanations of democratic transition so much as to specify how in the Korean and Polish cases international forces interacted with domestic factors in the democratization process.

To show how US and Soviet patron-client relations influenced Korea's and Poland's democratic transition, I compare the role of superpowers in two different time periods. Both South Korean and Polish governments faced mass protests in 1980 but used the military to repress protestors and civil society. However, when widespread mass mobilization calling for democratic concessions arose again in 1987 in Korea and in 1988-1989 in Poland, both governments made concessions to the opposition, which subsequently led to a democratic transition. I contend that this difference in outcome between the two time periods is partially attributable to changing superpower policies. Absent in 1980 were credible signals from the United States and the Soviet Union to their respective client states to support political liberalization. These policies, however, changed in the late 1980s and the superpowers, as a result, affected the calculus of client state elites.

My argument proceeds as follows: In the first section, I briefly describe the "international dimensions" of democratization and develop some hypotheses about how the superpowers could in theory influence transition outcomes in their client states. In the next two sections, I apply these insights to the Korean and Polish cases with particular attention to two arenas of change from the early to late 1980s. First, the Korean and Polish regimes changed their response to mass protests. Second, the superpowers changed their reactions to pressure for democratization in their client states. The key question, therefore, is to demonstrate how these two dynamics were related.

The International Dimension

As Geoffrey Pridham has observed: "The international context is the forgotten dimension in the study of democratic transition." (1) Although international influences are recognized as potential factors in democratization processes, the difficulty in systematically analyzing international factors has led scholars to neglect this dimension and the linkages existing between the domestic and international levels. Often viewed as secondary variables with little independent effect on their own, international factors may help facilitate, retard, or provide the impetus for democratization. But by themselves, international conditions cannot "produce a successful democratic outcome unless many other conditions are simultaneously present." (2) Pinpointing exactly what effect the "international dimension" has on democratic transitions is also difficult, given the broad spectrum of international influences. International influences refer to a vast range of factors that can shape regime transition outcomes--for example, different types of international actors (foreign states, international governmental organizations [IGOs], nongovernmental organizations [NGOs], and other transnational actors), international structural conditions (such as power asymmetries, global economic conditions, and proximity to the West), the role of international norms, and the effects of diffusion and globalization. Simply stating that the international context matters is easy. Much more difficult is selecting from a long list of potential international factors which particular variables play a significant role in democratic transitions, and then determining how they actually influence or alter outcomes.

One way to approach the international dimension is to begin by establishing different types of international influences and determining which type(s) is most salient in a given case, region, or time frame. A typology provided by Laurence Whitehead has proven useful in helping scholars identify the types of international influences involved in specific cases. (3) Whitehead groups international factors into three categories: contagion, control, and consent. (4) Contagion is the most parsimonious interpretation of international effects because it ignores actors, intentions, and causal dynamics. At issue is simply whether there are "enough clusters and sequences to eliminate the possibility of random association." (5) Control, the second approach, emphasizes power politics by exploring the calculation of outside, dominant powers in the democratization process. Powerful external agents like the United States can intervene or impose, or they can use more indirect tactics, such as providing economic support in the event of political liberalization. Consent is the most complex of the three. It links external agency with the intentions and actions of domestic groups and thus develops a more nuanced understanding of the democratization process. The consent perspective embraces a number of dynamics, including international structures such as alliance systems, ties between national democratic actors with transnational groups, and international demonstration effects. (6) However, "consent" also requires working with multiple variables and elusive patterns of strategic interaction, which vary case by case. Therefore, given the complexity in specifying the relationship between international factors and democratization, scholars are naturally inclined to turn to more readily identifiable, internal aspects of democratization.

The typology provided by Whitehead provides a useful starting point by narrowing the scope of the international dimension when analyzing democratization in a specific case. The approach used in this article combines the control and consent perspectives. The control perspective, which focuses on the calculations of dominant powers when promoting (or obstructing) democracy, seems logical in super-power-client relationships, since superpowers often pressure their clients to pursue policies consistent with the superpowers' preferences. However, I agree with Whitehead and Pridham that an adequate explanation of democratic transition requires a more nuanced story--one that contains both domestic and international elements. Here, I argue that superpowers often set parameters on the behavior of their client states. Superpowers may send signals ranging from tacit (dis)approval to encouragement to direct forms of pressure that affect the bargaining strategies of the regime in the democratization process. Especially during domestic crises, it can be suggested that the signals and actions taken by the superpower interact with the client regime's preferences by changing the costs and benefits of repression. The strategic calculus of domestic elites, therefore, reacts to both domestic challenges and international patrons.

Superpowers and Democratization

Although US and Soviet influences on client states may appear self-evident, as argued earlier, analyzing the actual impact of these two actors is complicated. How can superpowers as external actors influence democratic transitions? Samuel Huntington states that the United States uses several tools--political, economic, diplomatic, and military--to promote (and occasionally hinder) democracy abroad. These pressures may come through statements given by the president, the State Department, or other high government officials. Superpower pressure can also proceed in more direct forms, such as military intervention, economic sanctions, or diplomatic action. Positive forms of democratization, such as material incentives and aid, including financial support toward the democratic opposition, are also used by the United States at times to push authoritarian regimes toward democracy. (7)

Soviet influence on democratic reforms in Eastern Europe was less direct than pressures from the United States, but the changes in Soviet domestic and foreign policy were significant enough to spark a wave of democratic transitions in the former Soviet bloc countries. The Soviet Union influenced Eastern Europe primarily through political and diplomatic means. For example, Gorbachev's revocation of the Brezhnev doctrine, public statements promoting liberalization, and signals sent to Eastern European states to follow the Soviet Union's lead (in part as a way of building external support for the Gorbachev regime) all worked to encourage Eastern European states to take steps toward democracy. It should be noted that Soviet statements indicating military intervention as a nonoption in Eastern Europe also sent signals to Eastern European regimes and opposition alike, lowering the risk associated with pushing forward with democratic reforms.

Figure 1 describes how superpower signals influence transition outcomes during crisis periods.


As widespread protests rupture in the client regime, the regime chooses either to repress mass mobilization or appease civil society by meeting the democratic demands of protestors and/or making concessions with the opposition. However, the decision to repress or make concessions is influenced by signals from the patron superpower. Negative signals may be sent through threats and punishment, such as loss of political support or economic sanctions. Positive channels, such as tacit approval or encouragement, may also function as signals. What is equally if not more important than the actual form of signaling, however, is the credibility of the signal. Based on prior beliefs, if the client regime interprets its patron's signal as credible, the regime will likely recalculate the consequences of concession or repression. Unambiguous, credible signals for democratic transition are more likely to push the client regime toward democratization. Therefore, in South Korea and Poland, regimes were more likely to make concessions in 1987 and 1989 because Soviet and US external influences pushed their clients in a democratic direction. Figure 2 diagrams the outcomes for the Korean and Polish cases during the two time periods.


South Korea and Poland: A Comparative Case Study

South Korea and Poland may initially strike the reader as an odd comparison. Although the Korean and Polish regimes in the 1980s were both authoritarian, Poland was a communist left-wing regime while Korea was an anticommunist right-wing regime. Despite differences in ideological orientation, the two cases nevertheless present similarities that warrant a comparative study. To begin with, both South Korea and Poland emerged from World War II as client states closely linked to a superpower. The United States played a significant role in South Korea's economic and political development after World War II and the Korean War. Korea was economically dependent on the United States for several decades, and militarily dependent throughout the entire Cold War period. Likewise, the Soviet Union shaped and guided Poland's economic and political affairs during the Cold War, although this control was much more formal and heavy-handed than US influence in South Korea. It should also be noted that both Korea and Poland were geopolitically central to the strategic defense of their respective superpower's sphere of influence. US security forces stationed in South Korea were pivotal to Washington's containment policy in East Asia, while Poland's geographic position on the East-West fault line made it a natural buffer zone against a Western offensive.

Another similarity between the two countries was the role the superpowers played in preventing democracy from flourishing in Poland and South Korea until the near collapse of the Cold War. For obvious reasons, the Soviet Union strongly resisted political movements in their satellites that parted from communist ideology. (8) Ironically, the United States, traditionally viewed as the leading advocate of freedom and democracy, also stunted democracy from developing in South Korea. Although the United States helped establish democratic institutions in Korea, for all practical purposes, elections were rigged and Washington tended to turn a blind eye toward democratic repression as long as fight-wing governments kept a tight lid on potential communist sympathizers.

A third striking similarity is the periodic cycles of mass protest present in both Korea and Poland throughout the authoritarian period. Political mobilization and public protest in both countries occurred with relatively high frequency. In South Korea, nationwide mass protests took place in 1960, 1971-1972, 1980, and 1987. Large-scale mass mobilization took place in Poland in 1956, 1968, 1976, 1980-1981, and 19881989. The propensity for mobilization in Korea and Poland suggests that a vibrant civil society in both countries facilitated the democratization process. (9) In other words, the transition process was not exclusively an elite-bargaining situation in Korea and Poland, but a bottom-up process as well.

As with all comparative studies, however, one should keep in mind key fundamental differences. In addition to opposing ideological orientations, as noted above, the degree of Soviet political control in Poland was much stronger than US influence in South Korean politics. On the one hand, the Soviet Union repeatedly used military force to shape the domestic regime of satellite states. On the other hand, the United States was less likely to use open military force, but instead acquiesce to the ruling authoritarian regime's tactics to maintain political power. The different mechanisms of control did lead to variations in the forms of repression and the type of democratization that ensued in client regimes. However, acknowledging such differences in political control does not detract from the overarching purpose of this article in demonstrating international influences of democratization in patron-client relations. (10) Although limitations exist with this paired comparison, comparing the Korean and Polish experiences makes a certain degree of analytical sense and should be pursued all the more, because much of the existing literature focusing on the international dimensions of democratization has confined studies primarily to cases within, rather than across, specific geographic regions. (11)

South Korea

The US influence in Korean politics was considerable from the inception of the First Republic in 1948. Although the United States attempted to maintain ideological consistency by promoting democracy abroad, in practice, maintaining internal stability and deterring the North Korean threat were the two prime foreign policy objectives in South Korea during the Cold War period. These goals often meant compromising democracy. In line with Washington's containment strategy, therefore, the United States wanted an "orderly, efficiently operated, and politically friendly regime in South Korea." (12) Moreover, the United States had several means of leverage over the South Korean government, including political support for the Korean regime, economic and military aid, and the provision of a security umbrella. Legitimacy from the United States was especially important for new regimes that had acquired power through military coups without sufficient legitimacy, such as the Park and Chun regimes. In short, given Washington's concern for security and regional stability, the United States was less likely to apply real pressure on authoritarian regimes to democratize as long as the regime maintained some semblance of political-economic stability and a pro-American stance. Even though the United States may have rhetorically demanded political liberalization and expressed concern over human rights violations, a superficial semblance of democracy through "democratic" elections with sizable electoral support from the Korean population sufficed as a "consistent" policy. In this way, US international interests coincided with the interests of South Korea's dictators.

The 1980 Crisis

Park Chung Hee's authoritarian reign came to an end with a single gunshot to the head on October 26, 1979. After a period of interim government, the power vacuum created by Park's abrupt assassination was eventually filled by the head of the Defense Security Command (DSC), Major General Chun Doe Hwan. Executing a well-staged military coup on December 12, 1979, with close military colleagues as accomplices, Chun took control of the regular military chain of command. The initial coup was essentially a mutiny within the military, and Chun, for the time being, did not seek to extend his powers within the government.

The political climate improved in early 1980 with political rights of opposition leaders restored and peaceful demonstrations taking place on college campuses. But in April 1980, Chun Doe Hwan used labor unrest to justify elevating his status to the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) while simultaneously holding his DSC position. Angry that the military had quashed the interim government's promises for democratic reforms, Chun's actions sparked a new round of demonstrations in major cities against the new military regime. In Seoul alone, at least 50,000 protesters took part in daily demonstrations. (13) Taking emergency action, Chun banned all political activity, arrested thousands of opposition leaders and dissidents, shut down universities, and made himself the head of a special committee for national security measures. However, continued resistance against military repression was particularly fierce in Kwangju, a major provincial city in southwest Korea. The demonstration began on May 18 with approximately 500 students and citizens demanding an end to martial law. After troops mercilessly beat students and opened fire against demonstrators, Kwangju citizens took up armed resistance as the numbers grew to 100,000 protesters. (14) A battle ensued for the next few days, culminating on May 27, when the 20th Division of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army entered Kwangju in tanks and armored vehicles. The "democracy fighters" were overpowered, leaving 200 people dead and thousands wounded.

Following the Kwangju Massacre, Chun initiated a cleanup campaign, purging thousands of state officials, firing public school teachers, banning hundreds of periodicals, and arresting more than 40,000 "hoodlums." (15) Chun also sentenced opposition leader Kim Dae Jung to death in a show trial. On August 5, Chun promoted himself to full general before retiring to enter the presidential election. Not surprisingly, through the rubber-stamp National Conference for Unification, Chun received 2,524 out of 2,525 electoral votes. (16)

The Role of the United States: 1980

Where was the United States amid Korea's political turmoil in 1980? Why did the United States not prevent the bloodbath in Kwangju or push the Korean government harder to take measures toward democratic reforms? Although Washington signaled their displeasure with Chun's military coup, neither Washington nor the US embassy in Seoul made any concerted effort to reverse the events of Chun's coup. (17) General John Wickham, commander of United States Forces, Korea, during the Kwangju incident, argues in his memoirs that the United States did attempt to persuade Chun that his military takeover threatened national security and economic growth. To deny Chun full legitimacy, the State Department tried to work through official channels of the interim government and avoided meeting Chun regularly. The United States also laid out several demands, such as holding fair elections, setting a timetable for political liberalization, and showing leniency to opposition party members under arrest, before normal business would be conducted with Chun. (18)

The reprimands to Korea, however, amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist, and the level of US commitment to democracy in Korea in 1980 was ambiguous at best. More worried about internal political instability and the North Korean military threat in the immediate aftermath of Park Chung Hee's assassination, the Carter administration did relatively little to support democracy. (19) Chun Doo Hwan also had the good fortune of ascending to power when Carter's strong advocacy for human rights was waning, partly because of the prolonged Iranian hostage crisis, the increasing attacks against Carter's foreign policy by Republicans during the 1980 presidential campaign, and increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union in response to Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. (20) As Carter argued on CNN on May 31, 1980, "We are urging the military leaders and the elected civilian leaders of South Korea to move as rapidly as possible toward a completely democratic government. In the meantime we are making sure that Korea is kept secure.... But we can't sever our relationships [with] our allies and friends ... and turn them all over to Soviet influence, and perhaps even subversion, simply because they don't measure up to our standards of human rights." (21) Likewise, Wicldaam made statements such as, "International security and internal stability surely come before political liberalization," and, "I'm not sure democracy the way we understand it is ready for Korea or the Koreans ready for it." (22) Additionally, Chun's high-profile meeting just weeks after President Reagan's inauguration implied Washington's tacit approval of Chun's new regime, despite his undemocratic rise to power. Therefore, from Chun's point of view, whatever signals the United States did send to South Korea to uphold democratic principles lacked any real credibility and were therefore discounted by Chun.

The alleged role of the United States in Kwangju also deserves attention, if only because the US military commanded operational control over the Korean military under the US-ROK Combined Forces Command. Although the release of ROK Special Forces took place without US knowledge, the United States was aware that the ROK 20th Division would be deployed to Kwangju. (23) Thousands of pages of highly classified State Department and Defense Intelligence cables from 1979 and 1980, obtained by Tim Shorrock in 1996 under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal at least US acquiescence in the release of riot-control troops in the Kwangju crackdown. (24) Ambassador William Gleysteen's memoir also depicts the security versus democracy trade-offs, with State officials ultimately leaning toward security. In a May 28, 1980, policy memo, Gleysteen warns about the dangers of "trying to dump Chun" with its potential of unleashing more unfavorable circumstances. Thus, while calling for moderation of repression and constitutional reforms and maintaining a cool, aloof stance toward Chun, State officials like Richard Holbrooke noted a strong consensus to "not meddle with the essentials of our security relationship." (25) The cables do reveal an administration divided between its public commitment to human rights and its desire to maintain a stable security and economic environment. In the end, however, the United States, more concerned about immediate security matters than democratic rights, opted to support Chun's contingency plan.

In short, geopolitical strategic concerns and fears of political instability outweighed democratic concerns when the United States formulated its South Korean foreign policy in 1980. Consequently, the United States did little to stop or reverse political oppression in South Korea when Chun ascended to power. With the exception of political opposition leader Kim Dae Jung's commutation, what pressures Washington did exert on Chun's regime for political liberalization were for the most part ineffective. Thus, Chun's authority and control over Korean politics remained unchecked, enabling Chun to clamp down on opposition forces. Despite mass mobilization for political liberalization in 1980, without the United States credibly signaling for democracy, the probability of democratization in South Korea was significantly reduced.

The 1987 Crisis

In December 1983, the Chun regime began launching a series of liberalization policies. Political prisoners were gradually released and direct parliamentary elections were held in 1985, giving the opposition a growing foothold and voice in Korean politics. Despite this gradual shift toward political liberalization, protests again erupted in the spring of 1987. Protests over the cover-up of a Seoul National University student's torture death by police produced a new round of demonstrations in Seoul. Protests multiplied to megalithic proportions after Chun Doo Hwan decided in April to reverse his pledge of constitutional revisions establishing an institutional mechanism enabling his successor to be elected through direct, popular elections. When the two main opposition leaders, Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung left the moderate opposition party (New Korea Democratic Party), giving birth to the new Reunification Democratic Party (RDP), Chun, citing intransigence and factionalism from the opposition, chose the hard-line option of ending negotiations rather than working out a compromise. The move to maintain the present constitution was motivated by Chun's desire to prolong his military-dominated regime by handpicking his successor while working behind the scenes. (26) What emerged in opposition to Chun's regime was a grand coalition between the political opposition and several mass-movement civil society groups, otherwise known as the People's Movement to Win a Democratic Constitution. When the ruling Democratic Justice Party (DJP) announced its nomination of Roh Tae Woo (Chun's Hanawoe colleague) as its presidential candidate on June 10, violent antigovernment demonstrations erupted in Seoul and in thirty-seven other urban cities around the country. (27) As in 1980, Chun once again faced a choice between concession and repression. On June 19, Chun ordered several crack units to stand by to enter Seoul and put an end to demonstrators. South Korea was on the verge of another bloodbath, and possibly another military coup.

Elite Strategy and the United States

Unlike 1980, this time there would be no military crackdown. Instead, presidential candidate Roh Tae Woo declared on June 29 the Declaration of Democratization and Reforms. The declaration met several of the opposition's demands, including constitutional revisions for direct presidential elections. The decision by Roh had been reached in several secretive meetings with Chun and other inner circle officials the week before the June 29 declaration.

Although Chun Doo-hwan faced widespread mass protests in both 1980 and 1987, why did the regime opt for concessions and democratization rather than repression as in 1980? Several alternative (though by no means mutually exclusive) reasons can be offered. The simplest argument is the difference in political atmosphere and the magnitude of protests in 1987 compared to 1980. The ruling party had taken steps toward political liberalization in the mid-1980s allowing political opposition and civil society to grow considerably compared to 1980. Moreover, the events of 1980, in addition to the several cycles of protests over the course of three decades, may have helped galvanize, organize, and train activist leaders for mass mobilization in 1987. The year 1987 may have simply been the tipping point where opposition and civil society finally mustered enough strength to force the ruling party to make democratic concessions.

Examining the costs/benefits of repression versus toleration, one can also argue that the costs of repression were much higher in 1987 than in 1980. First, higher levels of popular demand for democracy, which also included demonstrations from the politically important middle-class sector, may have increased costs for repression. Second, the historical experience of the Kwangju Massacre may have shaped the calculus of elites by amplifying the perceived negative costs of military repression: despite economic achievements under the Chun regime, the regime could not expand its political support base so long as the opposition continued to accuse the ruling party of being a "murderer's regime." Thus, political elites in 1987 were aware that military repression, however effective in the short term, would later return to haunt their political standing and generate long-term political risks. Also, regime leaders may have used 1980 as a historical analogy: the violent reaction by demonstrators to military suppression in Kwangju suggested that military mobilization again in 1987 would set off a second Kwangju uprising leading to either a regime collapse or a return to military authoritarianism. Neither outcome was preferred by Chun, given his prior pledges for a peaceful transfer of power and the upcoming 1988 Seoul Olympics.

External influence from the United States is a third possible explanation for differences in outcome between 1980 and 1987. In 1980, Washington had been tepid. By contrast, in 1987, the US role was active in several respects. First, the United States signaled the Chun regime not to pursue military repression, making it absolutely clear that another military coup would not be tolerated. Second, the United States acted as a mediator between the ruling party and opposition, persuading both sides to enter negotiations to reach a compromise.

By what means did the United States exert pressure on Chun to not brutally suppress demonstrators? The United States made clear its position in liberalizing Korean politics while firmly stating it opposed military intervention in South Korea's political transformation. For example, on February 6, Assistant Secretary of State Gaston Sigur's statement that "the combined South Korean and UN Command forces present a formidable shield behind which the process of political change can take place" was interpreted by Koreans as a signal that the United States, having full legal command over South Korea's armed forces, was committed to preventing any forceful disruption of the transition process. (28) On June 13, James Lilley, the US ambassador to Korea, "strongly demanded" that the government forces not raid Myongdong Cathedral where hundreds of protestors were taking refuge. Additionally, President Reagan wrote a personal letter to Chun, which was hand-delivered by Ambassador Lilley on June 19. The letter tactfully urged Chun to push forward with democratic reforms and reiterated that negotiations and concessions were the best way to maintain national unity and end the current standoff. Reagan's letter arrived at an opportune time. At 10:00 a.m. on June 19, Chun, in a meeting with top officials, had given orders to deploy troops in several cities by 4:00 a.m. the next day. Chun also got ready to notify the US command about the release of troops and, under an emergency decree, was preparing to dissolve political parties and deal with dissenters through military courts. Reagan's letter, however, was delivered by Lilley at 2:00 p.m. on June 19. (29) Lilley warned that military intervention would damage the alliance between the two countries and repeat the damages that had been incurred by the 1980 Kwangju Massacre. A spokeswoman for the US State Department also directly warned against military repression, stating, "In our view military intervention would be a serious disservice to Korea's interest." (30) An hour after Lilley's visit, the mobilization order was suspended.

The preceding statements and actions by the United States were efforts to prevent another military crackdown as in 1980. Unlike in 1980, the United States was more willing to restrain the South Korean military under its chain of command. Additionally, US signaling magnified political costs by increasing the salience of the normative elements for democracy. Entering Chun's calculation was the cost of upsetting its superpower patron, which provided the Chun regime with both political legitimacy and material benefits. Moreover, signals from the United States put South Korea and the ruling party's international reputation on the line. As mentioned above, international reputation probably played a much more significant factor in Chun's calculation in 1987 than in 1980, with Seoul hosting the Olympics the following year. Above all, the United States was able to exert leverage through its superior military status in Korea, deterring the possibility of military repression. Thus, Washington's constant pressure throughout the political turmoil in 1987 increased the political risk of military intervention and a hard-line response from the DJE

In addition to signaling the Chun regime to prevent a military crackdown, the United States acted as a mediator between the regime and the opposition. In April 1987, Ambassador Lilley met with opposition leader Kim Young Sam to encourage negotiations. The House Subcommittee on Asian Pacific Affairs also approved a resolution calling for the resumption of constitutional reforms and democratization in South Korea. Additionally, Assistant Secretary of State Sigur met with regime and opposition leaders on June 23-25 to cajole both sides into reaching a compromise. Sigur wanted a confirmation from opposition moderates that they would accept conciliatory measures if the Chun regime indeed offered such a proposal. To the ruling party, Sigur again emphasized the United States' firm stance opposing military intervention, stating, "To resolve the current situation in Korea, the U.S. opposed any kind of military intervention, not to mention a martial law, and it does not see possibility of such an intervention." (31)

The extent of US influence on its client state in 1987 is difficult to determine with other factors working in the same direction toward a democratic outcome. Massive demonstrations, signaling to Chun his fragile grip on legitimacy, must have surely had an impact on Chun's decision to take steps toward democratization. Granting concessions to the opposition and restoring Kim Dae Jung's political rights had the dual effect of boosting legitimacy for Chun's DJP while splitting the opposition into two factions between Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam. However, as Cho Jung Kwan notes, "People power alone does not explain why a cohesive, incontestably strong authoritarian regime decided to abstain from military mobilization." (32) The strength of civil society, aggregated from the first round of protests for political liberalization in 1960, did not simply reach a "tipping point" in 1987. An important intervening variable for democratic transition was the influence of a superpower acting to restrain the Korean military and pressuring Chun to push ahead with direct elections. I do not discredit the role of mass movements, the Kwangju effect, or other domestic forces pushing Chun to make concessions. But the international context and active role of the United States in 1987, a factor that was largely absent in 1980, helped South Korea achieve its democratic transition. (33)

I have argued that the United States' more active stance in 1987 contributed to Korean democratization. However, this leaves an important question unanswered: Why did the United States take a more active stance in Korea in 1987 compared to 1980? Here, two arguments are critical. The first has to do with changes in the Cold War structure and geostrategic patterns. In 1980, the United States continued to focus on economic growth and development in South Korea, utilizing Korea and Japan as a Pacific hub to contain communism in Asia. Given that authoritarian regimes tended to be more conducive to economic development among the developmental states, the United States was more willing to support rightist regimes and wary about demands for democratization from workers and students. Although Cold War rivalries still existed in 1987, at this point, the United States had begun realizing its vast economic and military superiority over the Soviet Union, which led to changes in US policies and assumptions about the Soviet Union. Moreover, although the immediate North Korean threat on the Korean Peninsula still existed, South Korea had also achieved remarkable economic growth and qualitative military superiority over North Korea by 1987. Thus, the reason for propping up authoritarian regimes and blocking democratization became less relevant. From the ruling regime's perspective, signals for democratization in the late 1980s were more credible under this changed geopolitical context.

Related to the geostrategic explanation is the gradual change in US foreign policy on democratization and human rights between 1986 and 1987. Cho states, "Both the Reagan Administration and Congress gained considerable confidence in their promotion of democracy through successful cases of democratization worldwide--in particular from the Philippine and Haitian cases." (34) This resulted in a trend toward more visible pressures for democratization in foreign countries. Thus, the initial shift in Cold War structures in the mid- to late 1980s created space for democratization in regions located on the fault lines of the Cold War conflict such as South Korea.


Just as the United States dominated South Korean politics and economics immediately after World War II, Poland emerged from World War II as a Soviet client state. Under the patronage of the Soviet Union, Poland depended on the Soviets for political power, economic development, and regime stability. Soviet control in Polish politics was especially strong during the Stalinist period, with the Soviets heavily influencing the Polish Workers' Party (PPR), and later the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). An external revolution was imposed upon Poland. As Patrick Brogan states, "The Polish Communists did not seize power.... They were installed, protected, and directed by the Soviet Union." (35) Economically, the Soviets exerted their influence in war-torn Poland by controlling bilateral political and economic transactions within the Eastern bloc, including the materials necessary for industrialization. (36) Soviet penetration and influence over Polish politics and society fluctuated after the Stalin era with several Soviet satellites, including Poland, finding just enough bargaining power to carve out a more nationalist strand of socialism. (37) While de-Stalinization gave Poland more political breathing space, the fact that the Soviet Union continued to incur increasingly heavy costs in maintaining their empire through the 1980s suggests that the Soviet Union still had vested interests in maintaining control of their client states.

Polish Crisis 1980-1981

As with Korean civil society, popular protest in post-1945 Poland was fairly frequent. Several social and historical commentaries have been provided to explain the frequency of protests in Poland. Although a full discussion is beyond the scope of this article, commonly cited factors include the political role of the Catholic Church, anti-Soviet sentiments, the rebellious nature of the Polish working class, poor economic performance, weak Polish party-state institutions, and the flawed internal logic of state-socialist institutions that made regimes highly prone to crises. (38) As dissent spread in the 1970s among workers and intellectuals, the formation of Solidarity in 1980 as an independent trade union became a symbol of Poland's flourishing civil society. Although technically a trade union, the Solidarity movement itself, as suggested by Grzegorz Ekiert, should not be viewed as the sole creation and expression of the working-class struggle, but a movement that embodies the role of intellectuals, human rights organizations, and the Catholic Church as well. (39) Solidarity's power expanded when the free trade organization stepped into the political forefront during the 1980 crisis. On July 2, 1980, strikes erupted in several cities in reaction to the government's sharp increase in meat prices. As strikes developed into widespread social unrest throughout the country, Solidarity was prepared to sign an agreement with the party-state in August 1980. In the August agreements, the PZPR granted several concessions to workers. But most importantly, the party-state had institutionalized Solidarity as the first free trade union in the Eastern bloc.

Unfortunately, Solidarity's victory would be short-lived. The legalization of Solidarity led to a proliferation of other union movements. These unions decided to create a broader, centralized union to be called the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union-Solidarity. An alarmed PZPR deliberated over an optimal response to meet Solidarity's rising threat to Communist rule. Likewise, the Soviet Union expressed outrage at PZPR concessions to Solidarity demands, threatening Poland with the possibility of military intervention to restore order. The political tension drew out into the following year as Solidarity continued to challenge the Polish Communists for political power. On October 18, 1981, Stanislaw Kania was removed by the Central Committee from his position as PZPR's party secretary and was replaced by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. The PZPR's decision to militarize the Polish regime with Jaruzelski's elevation to party leader was intended to keep party discipline intact--one-third of party members had already joined Solidarity and another third had withdrawn from the PZPR altogether. (40) Although Jaruzelski met with Solidarity leader Lech Walesa to negotiate the suspension of strikes and begin talks on forming a Front of National Unity, Jaruzelski's intentions, signified by his proposal to parliament to grant him the power to declare a state of emergency, suggests that a military coup was already planned to wipe out the opposition. The night of December 12, 1981, Jaruzelski staged his coup and established martial law throughout Poland. As military units spread across several cities, key Solidarity leaders were arrested, offices were seized, documents were confiscated, and communications between Poland and the rest of the world were shut down. Jaruzelski addressed the nation stating that "anarchy" threatened Poland, and hence he had no choice but to transfer all power to the military council. Thus, the 1980-1981 political crisis ended with a military coup silencing Solidarity and tightening authoritarian rule. (41)

The Role of the Soviet Union: 1980-1981

Although the 1980-1981 crisis centered on the struggle between Solidarity and the Polish Communist Party, Solidarity's existence itself was a defiant act against the Soviet Union. Moscow feared that pluralism would "undermine the myth of the communist party's historical right to speak for the working class." (42) Thus, Polish revolt presented two dilemmas: not only was the 1980-1981 crisis an expression of workers' grievance over deteriorating economic conditions, but the revolt also represented a broader movement aimed at detaching Poland from the Soviet bloc. As suggested in Politburo meeting documents, enabling Solidarity to grow unchecked could send signals to neighboring bloc countries, loosening Soviet grip on its client states. (43) Moreover, the Polish revolt was occurring at a time when serious economic problems were surfacing in the Soviet Union and throughout the Eastern bloc, providing a strong impetus for political instability. As a result, Moscow perceived Solidarity as "the most destabilizing challenge to its imperial order in Eastern Europe since Titoism in 1948." (44)

As the situation heightened, Moscow's condemnation of Solidarity grew more strident in both public and private deliberations. While plans for the imposition of martial law were undertaken by the Polish General Staff, the entire process was supervised by the Soviets. Mark Kramer, who has compiled hundreds of documents and memoirs about the Soviet Union's role in the 1980-1981 crisis, observes that "the constant pressure that Soviet political and military leaders exerted on top Polish officials thwarted any hope that Stanisalw Kania ... might have had of reaching a genuine compromise with Solidarity." (45) Wanting to put an end to Solidarity, Brezhnev wanted "decisive measures" to be implemented immediately against antisocialist opposition and told Jaruzelski, "If you fail to take tough measures right away against the counter-revolution, you will lose the only opportunity you still have." (46) With the crisis prolonging, Moscow began issuing several warnings to the PZPR that it was prepared to intervene militarily to restore order in Poland if the Polish Communists could not contain Solidarity. Soviet military buildup for a potential invasion began in December 1980 as Moscow sent troops along the Polish border. During the first half of 1981, twenty divisions in the western Soviet Union, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia were kept on high alert.

General Jaruzelski's military coup precluded any Soviet invasion into Poland in 1981. Although it was ultimately Jaruzelski's decision to impose martial law over Poland, the decision itself was heavily influenced by direct Soviet pressure and the credible threat of Soviet intervention. Pressure was necessary since Soviet leaders doubted whether Jaruzelski had the will and resolve to impose martial law and end counterrevolutionary forces. Additionally, the Soviets threatened the Polish regime with military invasion if the PZPR failed to clamp down on Solidarity. From Jaruzelski's point of view, martial law was less costly than a Soviet military invasion. Not only would a Soviet invasion incur heavy losses on Poland, but a successful invasion could result in leadership changes in Warsaw and the ousting of Jaruzelski. The memoirs of Jaruzelski and Kania also emphasize the profound impact Soviet pressure placed on the Polish Communist leaders to impose martial law. (47) Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, in an interview in April 1987, also confirms that the decision to proceed with martial law was made under the threat of a Soviet invasion and with Moscow's advance knowledge. (48) In short, although martial law was implemented domestically, to some degree, Poland was coerced by Moscow to take military action. (49) Therefore, Soviet action blocked the opportunity for political liberalization in Poland in 1980-1981.

Polish Crisis 1988-1989

International conditions, specifically direct pressure by the Soviet Union, prevented political liberalization in Poland in 1980-1981. But when mass protests took place, beginning in 1988, the Communists granted concessions paving the way for Poland's democratic transition. What was different about 1988-1989? Deteriorating economic conditions, fundamental flaws in socialist institutional designs, and collective action from below are all plausible arguments for the breakdown of authoritarian rule, providing the opportunity for political liberalization in Eastern Europe. Again, analyzing each of these arguments is beyond the scope of this article, but in addition to one or all of these factors, I contend that another important, necessary condition for Poland's democratic transition was the role of the Soviet Union. Under Gorbachev, the Soviet Union itself was undergoing economic and political reforms. These domestic reforms, in turn, had a major direct and indirect impact on client regimes.

In the spring of 1988, strikes and protests again erupted throughout the country. As protests increased, preparations were made for the August roundtable negotiations between the PZPR and Solidarity. An agreement was finally reached on April 5, 1989, resulting in the legalization of Solidarity and partial free parliamentary elections. (50) What led the PZPR to make concessions in 1989? Public pressure through mass protests is one possible, but insufficient, factor, since the level of protests overall in 1980-1981 were actually stronger than those in 1988-1989. (51) Perhaps Solidarity's well-organized opposition and hard bargaining enabled the group to extract several concessions from the Communists. Solidarity indeed developed a coherent leadership, enabling the independent trade union to persist throughout the 1980s despite its illegal status. However, widening rifts between different leadership factions after Solidarity's sweeping victory in the 161 contested parliamentary seats suggested a superficial appearance of unity. (52) Another factor lay in Poland's economic woes and the steps the Polish regime was already taking toward liberalization. One can argue that concessions to Solidarity were merely the next step in a series of liberalizing reforms begun by a faction of soft-line Communists. But economic and political reforms were not just an isolated phenomena in Poland. Central to this picture were the Gorbachev reforms taking place during the same time frame as Poland's liberalization. In effect, what I argue is that domestic reforms in the Soviet Union and changes in Soviet foreign policy provided the space necessary for Poland and other Eastern European client states to undergo similar liberalizing reforms, which in turn also provided Gorbachev with sorely needed allies.

In 1980, the Soviet Union vehemently opposed Solidarity's challenge to Communist rule in Poland. But in 1989, changes in Soviet policy put Eastern European states in a position of having to respond to shifts in the circumstance of their patron because of their own client-state status. (53) Jaruzelski to some extent welcomed Gorbachev's reforms because they acted as a positive endorsement of his own economic reform policies. However, Soviet reforms put the Polish regime in a difficult position, since proposals concerning perestroika "uncomfortably resembled the proposals of Solidarity." (54) Nevertheless, the Gorbachev reforms helped Poland pursue their own reforms without the threat of Soviet intervention as in the past. Thus, one dimension of the Soviet Union's influence on Poland's democratization was Soviet domestic reforms themselves. By signaling to Polish leaders that the Soviets would not intervene as they had in 1980, the Soviet Union affected the bargaining strategies of elites, enabling them to push through with political-economic reforms. For example, Soviet decisions, such as the withdrawal of 50,000 Soviet troops in the Eastern bloc, only encouraged reformers to accelerate the reform process. (55)

International influences on Polish democratization were not merely passive forms of Soviet inaction (i.e., not interfering with reforms in Poland). The Soviets actually played a more active role by encouraging liberalization in Poland. For instance, the Soviet Union supported the roundtable negotiations between the PZPR and Solidarity, accepting the joint decision to begin the transition to liberal democracy over the next four years. (56) The Soviet media, such as Pravda and Izvestiya, portrayed Solidarity leader Lech Walesa in a positive light and encouraged the prospect of institutionalized pluralism. (57) Moreover, Gorbachev promoted indigenous reforms within the satellites, stating that "the independence of each Party, its sovereign right to decide the issues facing its country, and its responsibility to its nation are unquestionable principles." (58) Gorbachev's support for Poland's democratic transition also continued after Solidarity's sweeping victory. Telephoning PZPR leader Mieczyslaw Rakowski on August 22, 1989, Gorbachev urged him to cooperate with the non-Communist majority in the parliament. (59) Gorbachev's six-day visit to Poland in July 1988 also indicated his support for Solidarity. Approving union pluralism, Gorbachev realized that "Poland would not be governable without Solidarity and free elections." (60) When Jaruzelski also informed Gorbachev during his July visit of the possibility of legalizing Solidarity, Gorbachev showed enthusiasm regarding the issue, and gestures of Soviet support were given thereafter. (61)

Shift in Soviet Foreign Policy

But why did Soviet preferences change from 1980-1981 to 1988-1989, as had US foreign policy regarding democratization in South Korea between 1980 and 1987? The easy answer is Gorbachev. However, while Gorbachev was critical, so were domestic structural and institutional factors that led Gorbachev to make changes after 1985 in the first place.

Even before Gorbachev became general secretary, the Soviet Union was in the midst of an economic and political crisis. This dual crisis undermined not only the Soviet Union's ability to meet the basic goods and services of it population, but also its position as a global superpower. Under these conditions, Gorbachev proposed dramatic reforms in hopes of reviving the Soviet economic and political system. That the economic position of the Soviet satellite states was as bad or worse than that of their patron did not help the Soviets either. As Valerie Bunce argued before Gorbachev came into power, Eastern Europe was becoming more and more of a Soviet liability. Pressures had been growing for the Soviets to change their foreign policy strategy toward their client states. (62) The problems the bloc states presented to the Soviet Union were not only economic in nature, but also linked to politics. Weakening legitimacy raised Soviet fears about regional instability. Deviant paths of socialism taken by more reform-oriented states, such as Poland and Hungary, presented problems of bloc cohesion for the Soviets. In short, by the mid-1980s, Soviet clients posed three main problems for their patron: "economic slowdown, deficits in legitimacy and thereby precarious political stability ... and deviations from the Soviet model and Soviet objectives." (63) Therefore, to avoid being dragged down by its own satellites, the Soviet Union encouraged liberalizing reforms in Eastern Europe similar to those taking place within the Soviet Union. Rejecting the principles of the Brezhnev doctrine, Gorbachev called upon Eastern European leaders to reform their own economic and political systems.

Although the Soviets encouraged reforms in their client states to ensure their own domestic health, one should not assume that this choice was inevitable. As Jacques Levesque points out, it was unclear at the time what limits the Soviets were willing to accept regarding reforms in Poland. Soviet leaders, without necessarily resorting to military force, could have pressured the Polish Communist regime to slow down or even halt reformist policies. Therefore, even though proposals to liberalize Soviet domestic policy took place soon after Gorbachev's rise to power, "direct intervention and pressure to modify the composition of the regime" in Eastern Europe did not occur until the summer of 1988. (64) Although Gorbachev initially hoped that the Communist regimes would revitalize their political and economic systems through reforms, after the regimes failed to follow through, he accepted the idea of a region of stable, economically efficient, non-Communist states. (65) For Gorbachev, economically efficient non-Communist states were preferable to using force to maintain politically illegitimate, economically weak Communist regimes. Therefore, the Soviet Union encouraged reforms in Poland while also signaling to Polish Communist Party elites that concessions to the opposition would be welcomed. In other words, the Soviet Union, which possibly had the final say over the trajectory of democratic reforms, gave Poland the signal that liberalization was possible.

One may make the counterargument that Soviet influence was minimal in Poland, since significant reforms undertaken by Jaruzelski were already moving in a democratic direction. However, this sidesteps the fact that Polish reforms had already come to a near stalemate within the current system. (66) Without the approval, encouragement, and signals for concessions from the Soviet Union, Polish reforms, dragging out since 1982, may have stalled for years before any genuine democratic transition took place. Thus Soviet influence, interacting with domestic factors in Poland, played an important role in the democratic breakthrough in 1989.


The international dimension of democracy has been defined as efforts by international actors "seeking to change or adapt political practices, laws, and policies in conformity to a model of democracy." (67) In this article, I examined the role of superpowers as international actors and their ability to shape conditions conducive to democratization. More specifically, I analyzed how superpowers signal their client states, discouraging or supporting democratic reforms depending on their preferences and, thus, time period. In both South Korea and Poland, political crises characterized by huge waves of demonstrations required authoritarian regimes to respond either by repressing civil society and crushing the opposition or offering concessions. In 1980 (1981), General Chun in South Korea and General Jaruzelski in Poland cracked down on protestors, obliterating any possibility for political liberalization by repressing civil society through martial law. By contrast, in 1987 (1988-1989), both Chun and Jaruzelski, again facing nationwide mass protests in their respective states, decided to make concessions and meet the demands of civil society and the political opposition.

Because the Korean and Polish regimes were heavily dependent on their superpower patron, one intervening but often overlooked variable explaining the different outcomes between the early and late 1980s is the "international dimension"--in this case, the influence of the superpower on its client state. In Korea and Poland, superpowers credibly signaled their client regimes to make democratic concessions with the opposition in the late 1980s. For the United States, the difference in behavior between the two time periods was a reflection of changing US foreign policy abroad due to a favorable shift in geopolitical position on the Korean Peninsula and the reduced threat of a Communist takeover. Changes in foreign policy goals and a recalculation of trade-offs between democracy and stability shaped the parameters of influence and intervention in the US--South Korea alliance. Thus, as Cho Jung Kwan notes, when the US stance toward democratization was ambiguous, as in 1980, military officers acted more autonomously. However, the shift in geopolitics and US foreign policy goals in the late 1980s lent more credibility to Washington's signals for democratization.

Difference over time in Soviet behavior and foreign policy goals, on the other hand, was more a result of changing domestic concerns. Political ennui and economic stagnation in the Soviet Union led Gorbachev to push for reforms not only internally, but in the client regimes as well. The client states, viewed as a liability dragging down the Soviet economy, needed an injection of liberalization if the Soviet Union, let alone the empire, were to survive. The satellite states, aware of Gorbachev's new foreign policy agenda and economic liberalization program, understood the Soviets would not intervene if the opposition took power. One could argue, therefore, that Soviet signals for liberalization were indeed credible. In sum, the United States and the Soviet Union not only lifted structural barriers enabling their client states to progress with democratization, but also actively promoted steps toward a democratic transition in their client regimes. (68)

While there are limitations to paired case studies when studying patron-client relations of opposing regimes, more extensive studies that shift the focus from middle-range-level explanations to systemic effects of superpower rivalries may shed additional light on the extent of democratization's international influence. For instance, one may look at a wider range of cases expanding to Latin America and other Eastern European countries to investigate whether periods of increased tension between the two superpowers (i.e., the 1980s) resulted in tighter alliance management, while under detente or improved relations, superpowers became less adamant about controlling their clients, therefore providing a more permissive environment for democratization. And although Cold War patron-client relations no longer exist today, international dimensions of democratization remain salient in regions in the Middle East, Central Asia, and other former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. For instance, during the 2004 Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, in addition to pressure from civil society, international pressure from the West pushed the ruling regime to hold a runoff presidential election, enabling opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko to ascend to the presidency. Even if international pressure was not direct, support from the international community may have legitimized the opposition party and signaled or encouraged civil society to sustain their protests, thereby interacting with domestic factors. As the United States also allies itself with countries such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the war on terror, it remains to be seen whether the United States will attempt to promote democratic values in these less-than-democratic regimes, or whether a post-September 11 security logic will dictate relations similar to US-ROK relations in 1980.


I would like to thank Valerie Bunce, Hyeok-Yong Kwon, Robert Weiner, Jai-Kwan Jung, Stephan Haggard, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Cornell University Government Department's Political Economy Research Colloquium and at the 2005 Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting in Chicago.

(1.) Geoffrey Pridham, "International Influences in Democratic Transition: Problems of Theory and Practice in Linkage Politics." In Geoffrey Pridham, ed., Encouraging Democracy: The International Context of Regime Transition in Southern Europe (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), p. 1.

(2.) Pridham, Encouraging Democracy, p. 8. Also see Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

(3.) Laurence Whitehead, The International Dimensions of Democratization: Europe and the Americas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

(4.) These categories are not mutually exclusive.

(5.) Whitehead, The International Dimensions of Democratization, p. 6.

(6.) Ibid., p. 16.

(7.) Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), pp. 93-94.

(8.) Indeed, there was a practical consideration as well--fear of protests in the satellites spreading eastward.

(9.) For mass mobilization in Poland, see Grzegorz Ekiert and Jan Kubik, Rebellious Civil Society: Popular Protest and Democratic Consolidation in Poland, 1989-1993 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999); and Grzegorz Ekiert, "Rebellious Poles: Political Crises and Popular Protest Under State Socialism, 1945-1989," Eastern European Politics and Societies 11 (1997): 299-338. For Korea, see Sunhyuk Kim, The Politics of Democratization in Korea: The Role of Civil Society (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000).

(10.) Thinking of this paired comparison as a most likely and least likely case, the Korea-Poland comparison may actually add to the robustness of international influences on democratization if it can be demonstrated that superpowers of differing ideological orientation and political control both played a role in their client state's democratization process.

(11.) Many cross-regional democratization studies focus on institutions and other domestic features, but the literature I found on cross-comparative studies discussing international influences was sparse.

(12.) Wookhee Shin, "Geopolitical Determinants of Political Economy: The Cold War and South Korean Political Economy," Asian Perspective 18 (1994): 125.

(13.) Bruce Cumings, Korea's" Place in the Sun: A Modern History (New York: Norton, 1997), p. 377.

(14.) John Oh, Korean Politics: The Quest for Democratization and Economic Development (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), p. 84. For a more complete story of the Kwangju uprising, see Jungwoon Choi, "The Kwangju People's Uprising: Formation of the Absolute Community," Korea Journal 39, no. 2, (1999): 238-282.

(15.) Jung-kwan Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy in South Korea" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2000), p. 62.

(16.) Ibid.

(17.) Even General John Wickham writes that both he and Ambassador Gleysteen concluded that if Chun were to become president, the United States would have "little choice but to support him" because of US obligations to maintain security and stability on the peninsula. John Wickham, Korea on the Brink: From the "12/12 Incident" to the Kwangju Uprising, 1979-1980 (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1999), p. 156.

(18.) See "United States Government Statement on the Events in Kwangju, Republic of Korea." In Wickham, Korea on the Brink, pp. 204-210.

(19.) Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun, p. 375.

(20.) Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy," p. 60.

(21.) Quoted in William H. Gleysteen, Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence: Carter and Korea in Crisis (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1999), p. 148.

(22.) Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (New York: Basic Books, 2001), p. 133.

(23.) Wickham. Korea on the Brink, p. 133. According to Wickham, under the terms of the CFC Agreement, the release of these forces did not require permission from USFK. Although Wickham's memoir clearly steers any blame from the United States, others, such as Tim Shorrock, would interpret knowledge of the release of ROK troops with special training for riot control duty as tacit approval.

(24.) Tim Shorrock, "Ex-Leaders Go on Trial in Seoul," Journal of Commerce, February 27, 1996, p. 1A.

(25.) Gleysteen, Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence, pp. 148-149.

(26.) Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun, p. 386.

(27.) Oh, Korean Politics, p. 91.

(28.) Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy," p. 253. See also Kyung-Jae Lee, "American's Strong Voice Directed to the Politics of 1988 and Its Impact" (in Korean), Sin Tonga, March 1987, p. 166.

(29.) Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas, p. 170.

(30.) Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy," p. 253.

(31.) Quote from Donga Ilbo, June 25, 1987. In Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy," p. 261.

(32.) Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy," p. 250.

(33.) Posing a counterfactual, one might question the extent of external influence by asking whether democratization would have occurred in 1987 regardless of US support. US behavior in 1987 and concerns that Chun would try to hold onto power suggest that the outcome was more contested than when we examine events in hindsight. One might think about differences in superpower behavior between the early and late 1980s as political opportunity structures, interacting with domestic variables that increase the permissive conditions for democratization.

(34.) Cho, "From Authoritarianism to Consolidated Democracy," p. 257.

(35.) Quoted in Frances Millard, The Anatomy of the New Poland: Post-Communist Politics in Its First Phase (Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar, 1994), p. 2.

(36.) Valerie Bunce, "The Empire Strikes Back: The Evolution of the Eastern Bloc from a Soviet Asset to a Soviet Liability," International Organization 39 (Winter 1985): 5.

(37.) See Chris Jones, "Soviet Hegemony in Eastern Europe: The Dynamics of Political Autonomy and Military Intervention," World Politics 29 (1977): 217-241.

(38.) Grzegorz Ekiert, "Rebellious Poles: Political Crises and Popular Protest Under State Socialism, 1945-1989," Eastern European Politics and Societies 11, no. 3 (1997): 305.

(39.) Ekiert, "Rebellious Poles," p. 323. For a discussion on the origins of the Solidarity movement, see Tim Garton Ash, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (New York: Vintage Books, 1985); Jan Kubik, The Power of Symbols Against the Symbols of Power: The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in Poland (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994); and David Ost, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics: Opposition and Reform in Poland Since 1968 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990).

(40.) Arthur Rachwald, In Search of Poland: The Superpowers' Response to Solidarity, 1980-1989 (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1990), pp. 19-20.

(41.) Like Korea in 1980, how serious the crisis was is indicated by military, not party, law.

(42.) Rachwald, In Search of Poland, p. 4.

(43.) See Mark Kramer, "Poland 1980-81: Soviet Policy During the Polish Crisis," Cold War International History Project Bulletin 5 (Spring 1995): 117-118.

(44.) Rachwald, In Search of Poland, p. xi.

(45.) Kramer, "Poland 1980-81," p. 119.

(46.) Ibid.

(47.) Frances Millard, The Anatomy of the New Poland: Post-Communist Politics in Its First Phase (Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar, 1994), pp. 17-18.

(48.) Rachwald, In Search of Poland, pp. 20-21.

(49.) Other authors, such as Arthur Rachwald, have taken the more extreme view that the PZPR was completely manipulated by Moscow. See Rachwald, In Search of Poland, p. 106.

(50.) The PZPR was guaranteed 65 percent of the 460 seats in the Sejm, while 35 percent were open to "independent" candidates.

(51.) Ekiert, "Rebellious Poles," p. 332; Zoltan D. Barany and Louisa Vinton, "Breakthrough to Democracy: Elections in Poland and Hungary," Studies in Comparative Communism 23 (1990): 192.

(52.) Voytek Zubek, "The Threshold of Poland's Transition: 1989 Electoral Campaign as the Last Act of a United Solidarity," Studies in Comparative Communism 24 (1991): 355.

(53.) Michael Waller, Peace, Power and Protest: Eastern Europe in the Gorbachev Era (London: Center for Security and Conflict Studies, 1988), pp. 13-14.

(54.) Ibid., p. 14.

(55.) Karen Dawisha, Eastern Europe, Gorbachev, and Reform: The Great Challenge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 212.

(56.) Valerie Bunce, "Peaceful Versus Violent State Dismemberment: A Comparison of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia," Politics and Society 27 (June 1999): 67.

(57.) Glenn R. Chafetz, Gorbachev, Reform, and the Brezhnev Doctrine: Soviet Policy Toward Eastern Europe, 1985-1990 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), p. 102.

(58.) Dawisha, Eastern Europe, Gorbachev, and Reform, p. 214.

(59.) Ibid., p. 95.

(60.) Rachwald, In Search of Poland, p. 42.

(61.) Jacques Levesque, The Enigma of 1989: The USSR and the Liberation of Eastern Europe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p. 12.

(62.) See Valerie Bunce, "Decline of a Regional Hegemon: The Gorbachev Regime and Reform in Eastern Europe," Eastern European Politics and Societies 3 (1989): 235-257.

(63.) Ibid., p. 247.

(64.) Levesque, The Enigma of 1989, p. 76.

(65.) Roger Kanet and Brian Souders, "Poland and the Soviet Union." In Richard Staar, ed., East-Central Europe and the USSR (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), p. 128.

(66.) Tomas Niklasson, "The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1988-89: Interactions Between Domestic Change and Foreign Policy." In Geoffrey Pridham and Tatu Vanhanen, eds., Democratization in Eastern Europe: Domestic and International Perspectives (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 201.

(67.) Manuel Orozco, International Norms and Mobilization of Democracy: Nicaragua in the World (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002), p. 7.

(68.) Although the Soviet Union did encourage steps toward democratic reforms, one should keep in mind that unlike the United States, the motives behind these steps were driven more by political survival rather than by normative concerns for democracy.

Andrew Yeo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Government Department at Cornell University. He is currently working on a dissertation project exploring the politics of overseas US military bases in Asia.
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