South Korea After Impeachment

Journal of Democracy

After months of street demonstrations involving tens of millions, South Korean President Park Geun Hye was impeached in March of 2017. Some observers wonder if Korea’s young democracy has succumbed to populist forces, lapsing into deinstitutionalization. By analyzing these events in the larger context of Korea’s political history, we contend that they were not an attack on democratic institutions, but rather a movement to redress their violation by Korea’s political elite. We further argue that protest-led reform is a familiar pattern in Korean politics and that what took place indicates not a crisis of democracy, but a step forward.