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Since the late 1980s, South Korea has established democratic rules and institutions to protect the political freedom and civil rights of its citizens. In this process, political parties played a pivotal role in building democratic institutions and became a necessary actor for democratic governance. The characteristics of South Korean political parties and party system such as non-ideological regional factionalism, personality-based party organization, growing electoral volatility due to party changes, and a cartelized two-party system have contributed to weak party system institutionalization (PSI). Despite weak PSI, South Korea successfully underwent three peaceful power transfers, thus exceeding Huntington’s two turnover test of democratic consolidation. The stability of interparty competition has been maintained despite moderate electoral volatility. While regionalism is still the most important factor in voter decisions, the ideological linkage between parties and voters has been tightening. The South Korean parties and party system have a long way to go before achieving the levels of PSI seen in the West, but they have followed in these countries’ footstep to some extent. More sophisticated measures and concepts should be developed to analyse political parties and party systems in new democracies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of South Korean Politics
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780192894045
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • cartelized two-party system
  • democratic consolidation
  • party system institutionalization
  • regionalism
  • three Kims


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