This study explores collaboration between state actors and non-state specialists in the market for coercion. We focus on the case of forced evictions in South Korea, where violence carried out by private companies has occurred with the implicit, and at times explicit, sanctioning of the state. This level of government–private security cooperation has traditionally been explained by various hypotheses, including arguments about the weak capacity of a state to enforce compliance, trends in the neo-liberal marketization of state power, or as the outcome of a state being captured by the capitalist classes. Documenting the history of urban redevelopment projects and changes in government responses to major protest incidents in Korea, we instead argue that this niche market for private force is an observable implication of a shift in state–society relations in the wake of democratization. This phenomenon is, in effect, a very undemocratic response to democratization, by state elites.