Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 May 2020
South Korea is a success story in terms of institutional development. Not only did the country build a high-capacity ‘developmental state’ in the early second half of the 20th century but, towards the end of the 20th century, Koreans also witnessed the replacement of autocratic rule by a liberal democratic regime. The sequencing of these development stages seems to support ‘stateness first’ arguments, which claim that succesful democratization requires certain degrees of infrastructural capacity and citizen agreement. And, in fact, the ‘developmental state’ significantly facilitated the survival and rooting of South Korea’s democracy. However, as this chapter show, the process of state-building under autocratic rule left behind institutional legacies that continue to hinder democratic consolidation – in particular an under-institutionalized party system and a weak civil society. More generally, the chapter shows that the state-democracy nexus can be subject to path-dependent effects.