Party Politics Since Democratization

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					Party Politics Since Democratization: Cartelization of Party System in South Korea, 1987-2000

by EuiSuok Han University of Southern California

A Paper Presented to the Annual Meeting of Southern Political Science Association New Orleans, Louisiana January 10, 2004

Contact information EuiSuok Han Ph. D student in the department of political science University of Southern California


Party Politics Since Democratization: Cartelization of Party System in South Korea, 1987-2000

Abstract Since democratization, party politics in South Korea have been the center of attention for consolidating its democracy. However, pathological conducts of political parties and criticisms against those still continue. In spite of repeated formations and dissolutions of the parties, there have been no fundamental changes of party politics. Rather, the parties continue to hold on to their political power and even strengthen their status as political force through chameleonic change. How could the existing major political parties keep their prevailing position in party politics? How could they protect challenge of new political forces? Except for peculiar political environment in South Korea - regionalism, the characteristics of cartel party suggest good answer to these questions.

Introduction After the collapse of authoritarian regimes and the communist states during 1980s, democratization and its consolidation were paid attention to most scholars. And politics of political parties in South Korea was the center of attention for consolidating its democracy. Upon the democratization that took place in 1987, Korea’s political parties were given an opportunity to transform themselves into more democratic mechanism. Nevertheless, they were unable to take advantage of the opportunity and played a disappointing role in the process of democratic consolidation. Furthermore, pathological conducts of political parties and criticisms against those still continue. Since democratization in 1987, there have been repeated formations and dissolutions of the parties. But that does not mean fundamental change of party politics.


Rather, the parties continue to hold on to their political power and even strengthen their status as political force through chameleonic change. Party system based on regions in South Korea since the founding election has not changed in essence. The existing literature has expected South Korean political parties to develop ultimately as a medium of the state and civil society. Quite contrary to such an optimistic prediction, however, the political parties have evolved little, only repeating the practices of authoritarian past. Indeed, still common are a handful of party leaders’ monopolization of decision-making, factionalism, and high-cost political structure. Certainly, since the democratic transition new attempts have been made on and off to create labor or progressive parties. Yet, these moves have been scuttled by various sociopolitical, institutional impediments and the undemocratic party structure and conservative-prevailing party system has in fact persevered.1 As such, the existing parties have “maintained” or even “strengthened” their position as a political force since the democratization. How could the existing major political parties keep their prevailing position in party politics since democratization, without noticeable change of their performance? How could they protect challenge of new political forces? Except for peculiar political environment, regionalism, in South Korea, cartel party model is useful concept for answering those questions. This study presents that the characteristics of the political parties in South Korea show similar pattern to those of cartel party. (Katz and Mair 1995)


Regarding the direction of the transformation of party politics after democratization, Korean scholars’ preference to the party type in new democracy has been divided into catch-all party, in which parties have broad supportive basis and include various political forces, and mass party centered on the conservative and progressive political groups. Ahn, Byungyoung. 1994. Hankook Jungchi Ron, ed. Kim Untae, Seoul: Bakyoung Sa, pp. 680-681. Whatever their perspectives are, they emphasized on the linkage between parties and civil society.


Figure 1. Mergers and Splits among Political Parties since Democratization2
1987 1988 Presidential General Election Election 1992 1992 General Presidential Election Election
RNP (Feb. ’92) NDP (July ’94)

1996 General Election
ULD (Mar. ’95)

1997 Presidential Election

DJP (Jan. ’81)

NP (’93)

NKP (Feb. ’96)

NNP (’97)


RDP (Dec. ’87)

DLP (Feb. ’90)

GNP (’97)

NDRP (May ’87)


UDP (Jan. ’96)

PPD (Nov. ’87)

UNDP (Apr. ’91)

NCNP (Aug. ’95)


RNP (’92)

NHP (’93)





* ‘X’ refers to dissolution of the party

As shown in the Figure 1, Korean political parties have preserved the leaderships and their conservative party system ever since 1987, with only repeated name changes as well as outward formation and dissolution. In other words, Korea’s political parties have fallen short of establishing themselves as a link between the state and civil society, while securing only preservation by donning themselves with different appearances. Then, how could the existing political parties maintain their sustenance? As I mentioned, I draw upon Katz and Mair’s concept of “cartel party.” According to them, cartel party tends to

Modified from Kim, Sujin. 1996. Minju Ehangi Hankook Jungdang Jungchieui Bepanjuk Bunsok. EuiJung Yonku. Vol 2. No. 1. p. 19. and Jaung, Hoon. 1997. Hankook Minjuhwa 10 Yoneui Jungdang Jungchi, Hankook Sahoewa Minjujueui, ed. by Choi, Jangjip and Hyunjin Lim. Seoul: Nanam, p. 257.


set up the principal goals of politics as professional politics, and managerial skills and efficiency become the basis for success in party competition. The electoral competition becomes capital-intensive and the parties depend mostly upon state subvention for principal resources. Cartel parties gain privileged access to state regulated channels of communications and the pattern of electoral competition become “contained” accordingly. To put it differently, Korea’s political parties, rather than acting as a linkage between the state and civil society, have become a kind of state agency. Dislocated from their place between the two entities, Korean parties have not only grown separated from civil society but also become “cartelized.” These changes have reinforced their existence. Figure 2 shows the transformation of state-party-society relations during the process well.

Figure 2. State-Party-Society Relations Before and After Democratization3

State-party-society relations before democratization



(civil) society

State-party-society relations after democratization (1987~ )



civil society


Jaung, Hoon. 1997. Hankook Minjuhwa 10 Yoneui Jungdang Jungchi, Hankook Sahoewa Minjujueui, ed. by Choi, Jangjip and Hyunjin Lim. Seoul: Nanam, p. 274.


It can be rightly pointed out that Katz and Mair’s theory does not fit for explaining the evolution process of Korean political parties since it is based on the survey of the Western European party politics. To be sure, prototype of socialist mass party has not been witnessed in the Korean case and catchall party cannot be adopted exactly because it can emerge only after the phase of mass party. The Korean political parties, however, still have the mixed characteristic of cadre party in decision-making process, mass party in organizational structure, and those of catchall party in campaign strategies. Notwithstanding these minor discrepancies, Katz and Mair’s theory can shed light on the analysis of Korean political parties in that in Eastern Europe and many newly democratized Third World countries the organization and functions of political parties begin to take the form of cartel party in the stage of cadre party, while the development of western style mass party is oppressed.4 This study does not attempt to examine problems, nor provide solutions, with regard to Korean political parties after democratization. Rather, by drawing upon Katz and Mair, it tries to explore how the existing political parties could secure their continuity within the Korean political party system since democratization. As pointed out earlier, Korean political parties have contributed little to democratic consolidation, and only managed to maintain their political clout. Then, how did they hold political power and influence, in spite of criticism and new demands? Among major answers are as follows. First, democratization brought about changes in political environment, but these changes did not necessarily induce Korean political parties to take reformative measures;


Kim, Sujin. Kyunyeol Gujoeui Baljunkwa Hankook Jungdang Jungchieui Jungae, ’98 Chungae Haksulhoeui Nonmunjip, The Korea Political Science Association, p. 6.


they only created circumstances that reinforced the status quo. In actuality, the advent of “regionalism” as a means of political mobilization, conservative political culture and disappointing election outcome of progressive parties ended up strengthening the existing parties. In other words, because of minimal socio-political pressure for reform that might have pushed Korean political parties to ground their base on civil society, they turned to regionalism in order to garner electoral support and assure political sustenance. Second, “cartelization” of political parties – i.e., state sponsorship and the exclusion of minor and newborn parties – helped the existing parties obtain continuity. The major political parties’ characteristics since democratization will be analyzed according to the concept of Katz and Mair’s cartel party – i.e., raising institutional barriers that disfavor newcomers in party politics, increasing financial support for existing parties and thus virtually relegating them to state agencies, and introducing capital-intensive election campaigns.

Theoretical Background Studies of party typologies have suggested various party types (i.e., Duverger 1954; Kirchheimer 1966; Panebianco 1988), but, as is generally known, most of the party types are drawn from the surveys of the Western European parties. Consequently, the relevance of applying the Western model, like other fields in political science, to a newly democratized Asian country can be controversial. Gunther and Diamond point out that most typologies based on Western European parties could not capture the worldwide diversity of party types. (Gunther and Diamond 2003) However, it is a long-dragged debate to apply the Western-based theories to the other countries such as the Third World


countries. In a sense that applying the European ideal type concisely to other countries is not appropriate, ‘cadre-like’ party or ‘cartel-like’ party seems to be more applicable terms to describe non-Western countries’ party types. Since Richard S. Katz and Peter Mair suggested the emergence of ‘cartel party’, there have been several efforts to apply this model to various countries. However, those researches pointed out limitations of the model in each case. (i.e., Canada by Lisa Young, 1998; Israel by Yael Yishai, 2001) At the same time, Rudd Koole and Herbert Kitschelt criticize the theoretical problems of the cartel party model. (Koole, 1996; Kitschelt, 2000) Nevertheless, distinguishable characteristics of the cartel party (i.e., electoral competition, resources of party) are found in the process of changing party politics in South Korea, even though the evolution process was not the same as Katz and Mair’s model. Unlike the four stages of Katz and Mair’s evolution process, political parties of South Korea started from cadre-like or mix of cadre-mass party, and directly evolved into a cartel party type within cartelized party system. In spite of its limitation, Korean party scholars also have sought to apply Westernbased party types to Korean parties. Duverger and Kirchheimer’s typology – cadre, mass, catchall party - was most prevailing model to describing Korean political parties. (Ahn 1995; Shin 1993) Most Korean party scholars show common views of the party type, arguing that Korean political parties have changed from cadre party to catchall party. They assume that party type under authoritarian regime was cadre party or mix of cadre-mass party, and party type transformed into catchall party after democratization. However, I will show that the Korean political parties since democratization have


developed many characteristics of the cartel party, which were enumerated in Katz and Mair’s survey. Katz and Mair criticize advocates who argue the “declining” of parties. They claim that the argument was caused by the assumption that Duverger’s socialist mass party is the only party model. Mair emphasizes that the decline of the mass party should not be treated as the decline of party more generally.5 Katz and Mair insist the emergence of cartel party and present various characteristics of each party model.
Table 1. The Models of Party and Characteristics6 Characteristics Time-period Degree of socialpolitical inclusion Level of distribution of politically relevant resources Principal goals of politics Basis of party competition Pattern of electoral competition Nature of party work and party campaigning Principal source of party’s resources Relations

Elite party 19th century Restricted suffrage

Mass party 1880-1960 Enfranchisement and mass suffrage Relatively concentrated Social reformation(or opposition to it) Representative capacity Mobilization

Catch-all party 1945Mass suffrage

Cartel party 1970Mass suffrage

Highly restricted

Less concentrated

Relatively diffused

Distribution of privileges Ascribed status Managed

Social amelioration Policy effectiveness Competitive Both labour intensive and capital intensive Contributions from a wide variety of sources Top down;

Politics as profession Managerial skills, efficiency Contained


Labour intensive

Capital intensive

Personal contacts The elite are the

Members’ fees and contributions Bottom up; elite

State subventions Stratarchy;

Mair, Peter. 1994. Party Organizations: From Civil Society to the State, How Parties Organize, London: SAGE Publication, p. 2. 6 Katz, Richard S. and Peter Mair. 1995. Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy: The Emergence of the Cartel Party, Party Politics, Vol. 1. No. 1, London: SAGE Publication. p. 18.


between ordinary members and party elite

’ordinary’ members

accountable to members

members are organized cheerleaders for elite

mutual autonomy

Character of membership

Small and elitist

Large and homogeneous; actively recruited and encapsulated; membership a logical consequence of identity; emphasis on rights and obligations

Membership open to all(heterogeneou s) and encouraged; rights emphasized but not obligations; membership marginal to individual’s identity

Party channels of communication

Interpersonal networks

Party provides its own channels of communication Party belongs to civil society, initially as representative of the newly relevant segment of civil society Delegate

Party competes for access to non-party channels of communication Parties as competing brokers between civil society and state Entrepreneur

Neither rights nor obligations important(distinc tion between member and non-members blurred); emphasis on members as individuals rather than as an organized body; members valued for contribution to legitimizing myth Party gains privileged access to state-regulated channels of communication

Position of party between civil society and state

Unclear boundary between state and politically relevant civil society Trustee

Party becomes part of state

Representative style

Agent of state

Democratization and the characteristics of Korean political parties 1. Characteristics of the Political Parties before Democratization Korean political parties did not represent groups of divergent ideologies, and consequently ideology and class mattered little in party politics. In addition, under authoritarian rule political parties played only a peripheral role, while the state bureaucracy and the military took their place. After the establishment of the Constitutional Assembly, political elites formed many new parties. Among them,


Hankook Minjudang supported Lee Sung Man, a first president of South Korea, but he did not share political power with the party. Consequently, Lee and the party confronted and Lee formed a new loyal party, Jayudang, which became an origin of the ruling parties set up by the authoritarian ruler. Since the 1961 coup d’état, the ruling party had been subordinated to the military dictatorship in that it was created and maintained by the military. The military needed a political party that endowed it with legitimacy and administrative assistance in political affairs. The opposition parties, their raison d’etre being checking and balancing the ruling party, were not founded upon organizational basis and became “privatized” by specific well-known political figures. In this respect, elitism was salient more in the opposition parties than in the ruling party. Despite these elitist characteristics, Korean parties also show a side of mass party; they have massbased branch organizations, strong leadership with a top-down command system, and strict party rules. In particular, the Minju Gonghwadang (DRP), the ruling party under the Park Jung Hee regime, coming closest to a modern mass party model, formed a watershed in the history of Korean party politics. It set an example in recruiting party members from a wide range of social sectors, upholding strict rules that required staff as well as rank and file members to follow, and reforming the hierarchy of party structure. Other parties, the opposition parties, were unable to maintain the previous caucus form and began to search for a transformation to mass party, based on a branch form. However, in the DRP a reform drive toward mass party lost its momentum in the face of power struggles and oppositions within the party. The establishment of ruling parties was directly related with the change of political power and with the ebb and flow of dictator’s political life. For example, the


DRP dissolved with the collapse of the Park regime in 1979, and the new military government established the Minju Junguidang. On the contrary, the opposition parties split and integrated over and over again, insisting anti-dictatorship and democratization, in line with the opposition leaders’ need. Opposition parties succeeded only in changing superficial structure, but ruling by a small number of elite continued. To put it otherwise, Korean political parties before democratization seemingly had a centrally organized system with sizable rank and file members. They came short of becoming mass party, however, given that their organizational structure scarcely functioned. Indeed, the party members’ identity was not firmly established and they did little financial contribution, moreover, they routinely deferred decision-making authority to a small number of party elites. In this sense, Korean political parties were rather cadre-like party. Korean parties have had organizational structure of mass party superficially, but they have functioned as if they are cadre party, based on patron-client relations. The opposition parties placed more emphasis on political struggle against military dictatorship than on the generation of policy issues and governance. This being so, the political parties had rivalry between the party in power and the opposition parties, which was fed not so much by policy differences as by perennial political struggles. Ideological spectrum of Korean political parties has been narrow. After the liberalization from Japanese colonialism, new parties adopted various platforms and political ideologies. However, the U.S. military government’s governing and the Korean War accelerated the anti-communist ideology, and authoritarian governments oppressed all demands from society and the progressive ideals of opposition elites against the government using the ideology as a suppressing tool. In fact, there has been no


“relevant” leftist or progressive party since the dissolution of Jinbodang by authoritarian Lee Sung Man government.7

2. Continuity and Change since Democratization The presidential election in 1987 and the general election in 1988 could have been a turning point in Korean democratic development, but the election result turned out only to reinforce the previous patterns of party politics. Regionalism asserted itself, making voters cast their vote on candidates, based on where they come from rather than on what policy positions they support. The party politics based on the system after the founding election still continues with only outward changes. Political institutions, laws, and political behaviors during the authoritarian era were not substantially transformed and still adhered to Korean politics since democratization.8 Top party leaders have been identified with their political parties. That is, their political course of action caused mergers and splits of Korean parties. For example, Tongil Minjudang (NDRP) was created by Kim Young-sam, Pyunghwa Minjudang (PPD) started from Kim Dae-jung, and Sin Minju Gongwhadang (RDP) was for Kim Jong-pil. After failing to gain majority of seats in general election, the ruling party Minju Jungeui Dang (DJP) tried to merge with the opposition parties. As a result of merging with Tongil Minju Dang (NDRP) and Sin Minju Gongwha Dang (RDP), Minju Jayu Dang (DLP) was formed in 1990. However, after Kim Young-sam won the presidential election in 1992, continued factional struggles within the Minju Jayu Dang led the


Relevant party exists when a party has coalition potential or blackmail potential. Sartori, Giovanni. 1994. Comparative Constitutional Engineering, NY: Macmillan Press, pp. 33-34. 8 Shin, Myung-sun. 1993. Hankuk Jungchiron, Seoul: Bupmun-Sa, p. 268.


separation of Jayu Minju Yonhap created by Kim Jong-pil. Even after the event, party splits and dissolutions based on political interests were gone on. What is worse, un-principled recruitment of Korean parties led the coexistence of disharmonious political figures within the same party, in which the party did not have distinguishable policy-orientation and ideology from other parties. Recruitment strategies concentrated only to the victory of the elections and to the gaining of political power. As I mentioned above, Korean political parties even since democratization have shown the pattern of cadre party in a sense that a handful of political elites monopolize the political power within a party. But, at the same time, the parties also show the centralized and hierarchical structure, differentiating from cadre party. These characteristics indicate that Korean political parties have overlapping features of cadre party and mass party. Based on conservative-regional party system, Korean political parties have not paid much attention to policy competitions with other parties. Rather, the voting has been decided by regionalism and candidate’s personal qualification. Meanwhile, the emergence of the working class as political force after industrialization seemed to be a counterweight against regionalism, it fell short of garnering substantial support. This was so because of the preponderance of diehard regionalism, an institutionalized electoral system that put significant disadvantages on minority parties, and politically conservative tendencies of voters. In addition, the election reform after the democratization increased the existing parties’ dominance in their regional strongholds by raising institutional bars which incipient, reformative political forces have to surmount for success. For post-democratization political parties


of South Korea, the existence of regionalism and charismatic party leaders were the key elements. This being so, Korean political parties had little incentives to reach out to civil society after democratization and only to have become cartelistic, elitist political entities. Some changes, however, have been raised in the political parties. The existing parties have created loose links, even through regionalism, with civil society and have used mass media more frequently in their election campaign since democratization. In some aspects, these phenomena resemble Panebianco’s electoral-professional party model. Above all, the existing parties have become so-called cartel party and the entrance of new political parties into the existing party system has been “contained.”

Emergence of Cartel party As discussed above, Korean political parties have survived independent of civil society and escaped numerous challenges from various political forces. This was possible by strengthening the characteristics of cartel party. Katz and Mair describe major attributes of different party types. As shown in table 1, cartel party is distinguished from elite party, mass party, and catchall party in many respects. First, the major goal of politics is politicking. Second, electoral competition is limited to the existing parties and does not allow the entrance of new political forces. Third, political activities and campaigning become more and more costly. Fourth, the primary source of party financing comes from state subvention. And finally, cartel party has a privileged access to state-regulated mass media. Major political parties obtain material resources from the state and make it difficult for reform-minded forces to enter into politics, and turn to certain political


figures’ charisma as well as to easily accessible mass media for canvassing. Given these characteristics of cartel party, the next step is how to show that Korean parties after democratization have become such a cartel party. According to Katz and Mair, one can see the emergence of cartel party when state subvention increases on which political parties heavily depend, legal and institutional constraints begin to exist, the obstacles that block the growth of new political forces, political parties become more and more rely on the mass media in campaign, and certain parties have privileged access to the media in campaign ads and debates. In specific, Korean political parties have received increasing amount of state subvention and have been more dependent on state subvention vis-à-vis other revenues. Besides, TV and radio campaign advertisements are on the rise, while state subsidies for defraying campaign expenses are increasing. These changes no doubt have favored the existing parties at the cost of minority parties and inchoate political forces. It is safe to state that Korean political parties after democratization have sustained by accommodating these characteristics of cartel party.

1. Party Membership and State Subvention Different from Western political parties such as Labor party in the U.K and German parties, Korean political parties’ financial dependence on their membership fee is relatively very low and its ratio to party income have decreased since democratization.


Table 2. Ratio of Membership Fee to All Parties Income9 Year Percentage 88 59.4 89 36.1 90 16.8 91 21.9 92 66.1 93 12.0 94 6.3 95 10.7 96 5.6 97 10.3

With the decrease of membership fee, the number of members also has diminished. The number of party members was important in a sense that it reflects party’s political power. Traditionally, Korean political parties have made efforts to enlist members as many as possible for showing off its power, regardless of their lack of contribution to party activities. However, the dwindling number of members shows the declining importance of party membership and the change of election strategy.

Table 3. Ratio of Party Members to Population10 Year Percentage 1992 23.8 1993 21.0 1994 18.0 1995 14.1 1996 14.5 1997 14.7 1998 12.5 1999 13.0 2000 12.7

Cartel party gains much of its resources from the state. In party expenditure, the party income from its members has decreased, nonetheless, the state subvention for political parties has increased steeply and therefore, the proportion of state subvention in party income has also increased (see Figure 3). 11 In addition, the qualification required for receiving state subvention in polling scores and share of seats has grown harder.

JoongAng Sunguo Gwanri Euiwonhyo, 1998. 1997 Jungdangeui Hwaldonggaehwang mit Hyogyebogo, 1997. 1996 Jungdangeui Hwaldonggaehwang mit Hyogyebogo, 1996. Jungdangwui Hwaldonggaehwang mit Jaesansanghwang dung Bogojip (1988-1995).


JoongAng Sunguo Gwanri Euiwonhyo. 2001. 2000 Jungdangeui Hwaldonggaehwang mit Hyogyebogo. p. 20. 11 State subvention is comprised of two parts; subvention for party’s oridinary expense and for election. State subvention for election is provided when election is held. (provision for election subvention was added in 1991).


Table 4. The Amount of State Subvention for Political Parties12 (unit: million dollars) 1981 1982-88 1989 1990 1991 1992 For ordinary 0.8 1 per 2.5 10.5 10.5 17 expense year For election 252.6 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 For ordinary 217.5 232.3 245.4 253.3 251.6 251.9 expense For election 522.7 232.0 249.8 566.8

1993 17.4

2000 263.9 251.9

Even though a great amount of soft money, being unreported, still goes to the parties, the table shows in a rapid increase of financial support from the state outstandingly in election year. Figure 3 well shows that the political parties’ dependency on
state subvention in their income. The ratio of the state subvention to official party income

since democratization is considerably high being compared with 2-7% before democratization.13

Figure 3. The Proportion of State Subvention in All Parties Income14

Ratio of state subvention to party income 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 88yr 89yr 90yr 91yr 92yr 93yr 94yr 95yr 96yr 97yr 98yr 99yr 00yr year

12 13

I calculate all by 1 dollar=1,000 won (Korean currency) Choi, Wonjae. 1996. Studies of State Subvention: relationship between state subvention and party functions in South Korea. Master Thesis: ChungAng University, p. 32. 14 JoongAng Sunguo Gwanri Euiwonhyo. 1996. Jungdangwui Hwaldonggaehwang mit Jaesansanghwang dung Bogojip(1988-1995). 1997-2001, Jungdangeui Hwaldonggaehwang mit Hyogyebogo.



A more serious problem is founded in the ways of distributing state subvention among parties. The existing major parties have enhanced the threshold of gaining state subvention. Thus, the party law has strengthened the qualification for gaining state’s support. The revised law in 1997 stipulates, “ the 50/100 of state subvention should be distributed to each of the parties that have formed a negotiating body, at least gaining 20 seats among 299 seats, with a reliable number of parliamentary of the same party,” and “The remaining 50/100 of the money should be distributed by the proportion of the votes each party won in the previous election, including those parties that have failed to meet the condition above, but have obtained more that 5 seats or 2 % of the voting.”15 In fact, the distribution results have shown that only three or four major parties, which are region-based, gained the state subvention.16

2. Election Campaign and Privileged Access to Channels of Communication The electoral campaign has become capital-intensive rather than labor-intensive. Like many other countries, the media have become main tools for political communication in Korean party politics. The cost rapidly increased when the media has become the most important means for election competition. Presidential election since democratization shows emergence of media politics in Korea. Media campaign costs are rebated by the state after the election. However, new and small parties usually could not gain financial support for election campaign, because electoral law limits the qualification for the support to a party which gains at least 5% polling score in elections.
JoongAng Sunguo Gwanri Euiwonhyo, 1997. Jungchi Jakum Bupryungjip. Even the distribution of state subvention led the merger of two minor parties in 1994. JoongAng Ilbo, April 14, 1994.
16 15


Therefore, the new and small parties can hardly use the media for election campaign due to high financial risk. In case of the 15th presidential election, two major parties spent 10.9 million dollars and 10.7 million dollars for TV campaign each but the other parties could not use whole opportunities for media campaign due to lack of funds. The new and small parties were in a disadvantageous position even in free electoral competition.

Table 5. Legal Media Accessibility of the Presidential Candidates17 13th (1987) Number of campaign address Newspaper Advertisement Broadcasting Advertisement TV Radio 159 None None 741 20 20 221 99 60 TV Radio 46 37 14th (1992) 60 59 15th (1997) 26 22

Although the media for election campaign has been under the control of the electoral law, not all parties have had equal opportunity to access media. Even the public broadcasting is regarded as effective channel for communicating with the public, especially to a new and small political party, only the existing major parties have had the exclusive privilege of this opportunity. The government can control news coverage through electoral law, but the media focused on just major candidates. Political debates program in elections have shown the inequality well. The candidates from the ruling party and the two major opposite parties had a TV debate


JoongAng Sunguo Gwanri Euiwonhyo, 1988. 13 dae Kukhyoeuiwon Sunguo Chongram. 1992. 14 dae Kukhyoeuiwon Sunguo Chongram. 1996. 15 dae Kukhyoeuiwon Sunguo Chongram.


during the prime time and more times as a single debate group, but the new and small parties, as another debate group, could appear only at minor time and at one time.

Table 6. Average Reporting Time Assigned to Presidential Candidates: The 14th Presidential Election18 (unit: second) DLP Average Time 129.8 DP 111.3 UPP 95.7 Five Others 81.1

As shown above, competition among the Korean political parties has been contained. There are more evidences which show cartelization of the Korean party system. Major parties which are based on regionalism have raised the threshold of the polling score rate which can receive state’s election fund in general elections, presidential elections and local elections. For instance, the polling scores which can gain state’s supporting money has increased from 7% in the 14th presidential elections to 10% in the 15th presidential elections, and from 10% in the 1995 local elections to 20% in the 1998. Notably, no new and small parties have gained the financial support, except for the region-based existing parties. The party law includes the provision that the party not obtaining 5% in general election should be dissolved. It is enforced from the former 2% threshold.19

Lee, MinWoong. KikeJuk KoonHyungChiJoong JangJumBoDo ShilPae, Journalism 1993 Spring, pp. 342-348. 19 JoongAng Sunguo Gwanri Euiwonhyo. 1997. Jungchi Jakum Bupryungjip. Munhwa Ilbo, May 11, 1998.



Conclusion Deep-rooted behaviors of Korean party politics such as several party leaders’ monopolization of decision-making, factionalism, and high-cost political structure have not changed. Regionalism has dominated in the voting behavior until now. However, major Korean party politics have shown some characteristics of cartel party. Within this structure, the existing parties “maintained” or even “strengthened” their position as a political force since democratization. The characteristics of cartel party have been main factors of helping the existing major parties to maintain and strengthen their political power. Indeed, the electoral competition becomes capital-intensive and the parties depend mostly upon state subvention for principal resources. Major parties gain privileged access to state-regulated channels of communications and the pattern of electoral competition become “contained” accordingly. After the financial crisis in 1997, and political reform driven under the new president Roh Muhyun since 2002, labor forces seem to become politically powerful and there is a hope of transformation of current party politics. However, the mood of political reform in party politics has always been right after the new government and turned to be little progress in party politics. It may need more time to judge whether the present mood of political reform can break cartel-like party system in South Korea.


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