Why have so many political parties existed in South Korea? We have previously discussed that the Chaebol is a prominent factor as well as is the existence of Koreas mixed-party electoral system. It is evident that a combination of these two factors creates the environment in which small minority political parties can thrive. Yet what would occur if these factors were to be manipulated? Would this in turn have an effect on the number of political parties?
According to previous assumptions, the outcome of either government regulations on the Chaebol or a change in electoral laws would ultimately decrease the party numbers. Lets take a look at whether or not this is so. Two years ago, the Korean government began a series of regulations on the Chaebol. The Chaebol were under central government control when they were originated in the 1920s and 30s, and todays Korean government wishes to return them to this state (Shim 1).
In September, 2000, President Kim Dae-jung stepped up the endeavor. This government-led reconstruction effort included the dismantling of Daewoo Group, South Koreas second largest conglomerate. In the government draft, all listed firms were required to fill half their board of directors with neutral outsiders, and the total investment ceiling was set at 25 to 30 percent. Both of these regulations were aimed at putting an end to the chaebol owners one-man rule over a number of affiliates.
Additionally, the government toughened inheritance tax regulations in order to prevent chaebols generation to generation succession of wealth through extra-legal methods (Young-jin 2). Yet, the number of political parties remains the same as before the above mentioned regulations had been implemented. Although this may seem as if the regulations on the Chaebol have had no affect on the number of parties and therefore discredited our theory, this in fact is not necessarily true.
Perhaps the proposed regulations were not strict enough or the Korean government neglects to follow through with the policies they have issued. In fact, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), more so Vice Chairman Sohn Byung-doo, has displayed much criticism against the governments reform programs. It is desirable for the reform to start at the state-run enterprises and cover the private sector later, given the cases of industrialized and democratized nations like the United States and Britain Byung-doo noted (Shim 2). Without reform in the labor sector, the governments goal for reform has faced a serious setback.
Furthermore, two years of reform is not nearly enough time for the effect of these regulations to be manifested in the form of unified political parties and party coalitions. Although these newly implemented policies should allegedly have an effect on the number of political parties in South Korea, it is too soon to tell. Because of this, our theory cannot be considered void merely for this reason. In continuation of our analysis, the next factor to be measured is the influence of mixed electoral systems on party existence.
Throughout the 1990s, numerous democratizing or transitional countries in addition to South Korea, adopted a combination of proportional representation and plurality rules, like those of Germany, to fill the seats of their legislatures. Because these countries, which include Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, as well as many others, follow the same systems, we can assume that their party structure would also resemble that of South Korea. But do they? In fact, the three countries mentioned above all have multiple and ever-changing political parties much like South Korea.