Transitions to Good Governance: the Case of South Korea

This paper traces the development of corruption and pluralism in South Korea all the way back to independence in 1945. It distinguishes and describes three kinds of transition, namely from the simple agrarian society governed by landlords to a complex industrial one, from the authoritarian rule of Park and Chu to democracy, and the overarching transition to good governance. The study finds progress towards the goal of good governance in the land reform of the 1950s, in the establishment of a meritocratic and effective bureaucracy during the 60s and 70s, through the creation of an autonomous and well-educated middle class till the 80s, and finally the fight against the market domination by the Chaebols following the Asian crisis of 1997. Differing from the general literature on anti-corruption but in line with recent developments in the economics literature the fight for an autonomous state in Korea seems to depend on successful regulation of markets.