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4 - Corruption Control in Authoritarian South Korea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2022

Christopher Carothers
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

Chapter 4 assesses corruption control efforts by South Korea’s military-back authoritarian governments between the 1960s and 1980s. I argue that Park Chung-hee was a motivated reformer and had sufficient state capacity at his disposal but initially faced too many constraints on his leadership to curb corruption. Park came to power in a coup in 1961 and, as promised, launched a crackdown on corrupt politicians and businesspeople. However, Park had to contend with quasi-democratic institutions, powerful private economic actors, and other factors that made following through on anti-corruption reforms politically infeasible. This changed after Park consolidated personal power in the early 1970s, especially through the passage of the repressive Yushin constitution in 1972. Park was able to enact the General Administrative Reform (1973–77) to reduce corruption and strengthen South Korea’s developmental state. This chapter also discusses Chun Doo-hwan’s Purification campaign (1980–81), which was a more typical case of superficial anti-corruption efforts by an autocrat motivated by narrowly political considerations.

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Corruption Control in Authoritarian Regimes
Lessons from East Asia
, pp. 90 - 130
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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