South Korean Political Parties Essay, Research Paper
Poli Sci 083
November 30, 2000
Why have so many political parties existed in South Korea? We have previously discussed that the Chaebol is a prominent factor as well as is the existence of Korea?s mixed-party electoral system.
It is evident that a combination of these two factors creates the environment in which small minority political parties can thrive. Yet what would occur if these factors were to be manipulated? Would this in turn have an effect on the number of political parties? According to previous assumptions, the outcome of either government regulations on the Chaebol or a change in electoral laws would ultimately decrease the party numbers. Let?s take a look at whether or not this is so.
Two years ago, the Korean government began a series of regulations on the Chaebol. The Chaebol were under central government control when they were originated in the 1920s and 30s, and today?s Korean government wishes to return them to this state (Shim 1). In September, 2000, President Kim Dae-jung stepped up the endeavor. This government-led reconstruction effort included the dismantling of Daewoo Group, South Korea?s second largest conglomerate. In the government draft, all listed firms were required to fill half their board of directors with neutral outsiders, and the total investment ceiling was set at 25 to 30 percent. Both of these regulations were aimed at putting an end to the chaebol owners? one-man rule over a number of affiliates. Additionally, the government toughened inheritance tax regulations in order to prevent chaebol?s generation to generation succession of wealth through extra-legal methods (Young-jin 2).
Yet, the number of political parties remains the same as before the above mentioned regulations had been implemented. Although this may seem as if the regulations on the Chaebol have had no affect on the number of parties and therefore discredited our theory, this in fact is not necessarily true. Perhaps the proposed regulations were not strict enough or the Korean government neglects to follow through with the policies they have issued. In fact, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), more so Vice Chairman Sohn Byung-doo, has displayed much criticism against the government?s reform programs. ?It is desirable for the reform to start at the state-run enterprises and cover the private sector later, given the cases of industrialized and democratized nations like the United States and Britain? Byung-doo noted (Shim 2). Without reform in the labor sector, the government?s goal for reform has faced a serious setback.
Furthermore, two years of reform is not nearly enough time for the effect of these regulations to be manifested in the form of unified political parties and party coalitions. Although these newly implemented policies should allegedly have an effect on the number of political parties in South Korea, it is too soon to tell. Because of this, our theory cannot be considered void merely for this reason.
In continuation of our analysis, the next factor to be measured is the influence of mixed electoral systems on party existence. Throughout the 1990s, numerous democratizing or transitional countries in addition to South Korea, adopted a combination of proportional representation and plurality rules, like those of Germany, to fill the seats of their legislatures. Because these countries, which include Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, as well as many others, follow the same systems, we can assume that their party structure would also resemble that of South Korea. But do they? In fact, the three countries mentioned above all have multiple and ever-changing political parties much like South Korea.
Currently, Italy consists of 21 parties that vary across the political spectrum:
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From left to right:
Row 1: National Alliance, Libertarian Party, Christian Democrat Center, Christian Democrat Union, Party of the Italian Communists, Communist Party, Democrats of the Left
Row 2: Democrats, Italian Renovation, Italy Ahead!, Labor Party, Northern League for the Independence of Padania, Tricolor Social Movement, Liberal Democrats
Row 3: People?s Party – Christian, Democrats of the Right, Communist Refoundation Party, Socialist Democratic Party, Democratic Union for Europe, Movement for Ulivo, Green Party
The Japanese legislature is also host to a plethora of political parties. Their mixed electoral system delegates the members of its 252 seat administration as follows:
Political Parties and Groups Number of Members
Liberal Democratic Party-New Conservative Party 112
The Democratic Party and The Shin-Ryokufukai 58
New Komeito 24
Japanese Communist Party 23
Social Democratic Party 13
Independents(Mushozoku no Kai) 7
Liberal Party 5
Niin Club-Liberal League 4
Lastly, New Zealand is presently made up of the following 25 parties:
Political Parties of New Zealand
ACT New Zealand Natural Law Party
Animals First New Zealand First Party
Aotearoa/New Zealand Party NMP
Asia Pacific United Party One New Zealand Party
Christian Heritage Party of New Zealand Te Tawharau
Future New Zealand The Alliance
Green Society The Greens, The Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand
Libertarianz The New Zealand Democratic Party, Inc.
Mana Maori Movement The New Zealand National Party
Mana Motuhake O Aotearoa The People?s Choice Party
Mana Wahine Te Ira Tangata The Republican Party, Inc.
Mauri Pacific United New Zealand Party
On the opposing side of mixed systems lies pure plurality rules like those of the United States. Further proving the correlation between mixed party electoral laws and copious political parties, we know that the United States is basically a two-party system. Hypothetically, if the US were to change their method of representation, based on our theory, we would see the uprising of small parties and the division of the electorate.
In conclusion, it is rather hard to clearly measure the actual affect of the Chaebol on the number of political parties in South Korea because of the time constraints we are faced with. However, it can be assumed that the increased government intervention and reform tactics will play a significant role in the unification and decrease in the number of small parties. Moreover, the strong correlation between political parties and mixed-electoral laws is not only seen in South Korea, but in other countries as well and can therefore be considered more than a mere coincidence. These factors generate the context in which minority parties can flourish.
Shim, Jay. ?FKI Hits Government Reform Program.? Korea Times. 24 November 2000, C 18.
www.govt/nz. November 18, 2000.
www.politicalresources.net/italy1.htm. Novermber 19, 2000
www.sangiin.go.jp.eng/hoc/hoc102.htm. November 18, 2000.
Young-jin, Oh. ?Chaebol Fighting Back Against Government Policy.? Korea Times. 7 September 2000, D 7.