Social conflicts and policy-making in korea: Interpretation of policy failures through a public discourse perspective

Yeonseob Ha, Jaehyun Joo, Minah Kang, T. J. Lah, Jiho Jang

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8 Scopus citations


In recent times, public policy-making in Korea has increasingly led to serious social conflicts. Competing and conflicting interests become publicly exposed in various, usually angry, ways such as wild picketing and disruptive demonstrations. In any society, public policy-making is usually associated with social conflicts, but the level and magnitude of social conflicts and, as a result, disarray in the policy-making process in Korea, have been unprecedented. This article argues that the Korean government's inattention to public discourse and policy-making strategies is largely responsible for the difficulties it has experienced in recent years. Korean society still lacks an effective decision-making system that could allow effective communication between policy stakeholders and coordinate their legitimate demands. By utilizing a public discourse perspective, this article provides detailed analyses of policy-making difficulties in Korea and proposes alternative ways to reach a social consensus for conflict-ridden social issues. Points for practitioners This article analyzes three cases of policy-making difficulties the Korean government has recently experienced. The three cases are the Radio Waste Disposal Facility siting decision, the introduction of the National Education Information System, and the Korea-US FTA Agreement. The three cases show how the lack of coordinating processes and inattention to policy-making strategies, such as issue framing in the communicative stage, could make public policies adrift. Our analysis shows that, to cope with policy-making problems in Korea, it is necessary to develop institutional mechanisms to incorporate various social interests at the stage of coordinative discourse. Furthermore, Korea needs to develop a more elaborate stage of communicative discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-664
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Administration and democracy
  • Policy-making


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