Explaining the minority coalition government and governability in South Korea

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This paper attempts to conceptualize the study of government and governability in South Korea within the broader fields of coalition-building in parliamentary systems and regime studies. In particular, it seeks to identify and discuss the determinants of ungovernability in minority coalition governments as these have characterized the post-election politics in the phase of democratic consolidation. The review of the literature suggests that the minority coalition government of Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) was not 'fatally doomed' to bring about ungovernability. In fact, the coalition governments in Western European countries under parliamentary systems have been shown to be rather structurally stable. Minority or divided governments in presidential systems have also proven to be not necessarily unstable. The new literature on regime studies suggests that it may not be the regime type but some other mechanisms that cause a political deadlock in or breakdown of democratic regimes. The paper concludes with the suggestion that attention should be shifted from features peculiar to Korea and should instead be focused on the political parties' internal mechanisms such as the lack of democracy within parties and the level of institutionalization of the party as well as of the party system as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-84
JournalKorea Observer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2008


  • South Korea
  • minority government
  • coalition politics
  • party institutionalization
  • governability
  • government stability
  • party politics
  • intra-party politics
  • semi-presidential systems


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