The evolution of south korean civic activism

Kisuk Cho, Hye Yun Park

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Against the backdrop of South Korean politics in the 21st century, this chapter traces the changes in the characteristics and motivations of protesters. The 2008 protest was unlike previous ones in terms of its issues and considerable female participation. Using data from before and after the event, specifically from the 2005 and 2010 World Values Survey, the study examines three competing theses regarding the source of Korea's recent political activism to distinguish the nature of activism in 2008: "disaffected radicalism," "social capital," and "postmaterialism." Street demonstrations had been steadily decreasing in South Korea since the country's democratization in 1987 and subsequent reforms, but the country witnessed a series of mass candlelight vigils in the 2000s, culminating in one million protesters taking to the streets in 2008 to demand the renegotiation of US beef importation conditions. The protest in 2016, demanding the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, symbolized a peaceful movement with over 16 million people mobilized and no reports of violent conflict. Two conclusions can be tentatively drawn from the results. First, South Korea, displaying features of a transitional society, confirms Inglehart's prediction that a nascent democracy will follow advanced democracies along an upward trajectory of elite-challenging activity. Second, as civic activism spreads to the general population, behavior that was perceived as unconventional in the past becomes increasingly accepted, ushering in a period of the normalization of non-normal behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch on KoreaSouth Korea's Democracy Challenge
PublisherPeter Lang AG
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783631809815
ISBN (Print)9783631809822
StatePublished - 14 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. Peter Lang GmbH.


  • 2008 protest
  • Candlelight vigils
  • Civic activism
  • Democracy
  • Democracy 2.0
  • Disaffected radicals
  • Elite-challenging
  • Postmaterialism
  • Social capital
  • South Korea
  • Transitional society
  • World Values Survey


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