From Developmental State to Developmental Society?: The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Recent Korean Development and Possible Lessons for Developing Countries

In: Asian International Studies Review
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In the 1980s and 1990s, rapid market oriented reforms, liberalization and privatization ("shock therapy") in developing and transformational countries caused economic and social problems that began to undermine the legitimacy of political democratization and market reforms itself. Scholars in the field of transformation and development theory found that market coordination alone was not able to fill the void left by a weak or weakening state. In this essay, we look at the case of Korea to find out if an active civil society can substitute functions of the withdrawing developmental state since the 1980s. We show that civil society organizations (CSOs) in Korea have been relatively effective in influencing political processes, shaping public opinion, compensating the weakness of political instirucions, and contributing to general development. Korean CSOs achieved this remarkable impact despite substantial organizational problems and a relatively unfavorable socioeconomic and political environment. This effectiveness and the synergy between state and civil society make Korean CSOs very interesting to study for development scholars. Korea might offer some valuable lessons on how to improve advocacy CSOs in an unfavorable environment similar to that of many developing countries.

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