Authoritarian government v. Democracy

I am not fully for democracy being ‘imposed’ on other countries like the United States supposedly did so in Iraq, but nevertheless, we have to admit, it is the fairest and most adequate type of government that humanity has had so far and it is important that we acknowledge this fact and try to have democratic governments to some extent.

Unless authoritarian governments provide us with a ‘leader with good intentions’, ‘free press and freedom of expression’, etc etc

But really, isn’t the basic definition of authoritarian government the absence of all the above?

How much can the ‘good intentions’ of an authoritarian leader be reflected in positive policies in a country? Why would he have the incentive to ‘please’ the population and go forward with measures that will improve people’s livelihood? Is the economic development that he tries to reach the ‘right’ development that will benefit the population as a whole?


Some people seem to take for granted the sacrifice the majority of a population has had to go through in order to acheive economic development in certain countries that seemed hopeless a mere half a century ago. Results today, on the very shallow surface, may show that Korea has indeed come out of the devastating situation after the Korean War. Granted, the development that Korea has gone through is indeed remarkable, considering the speed and extent of it. However, economic development does not mean political or social improvement.

People -not even all- may be able to afford TVs, cars or phones more easily than they could decades ago, but does that necessarily mean that Korea is better off as a whole (like so many Economists like to say  – ‘as a whole’ – what does it mean really, and is it really better? How many, how much is ‘as a whole’?). That is why, some people say, 박정희 should be acknowledged for his great work and his authoritarian rule should be forgiven, considering the degree of development he brought to Korea ‘as a whole’.


No – authoritarian governments, especially one like his, should never be condoned just because some numbers in GDP or exports increased.

Most of the problems that the Korean society is having now, emanates from that era and they have become so big over the years that they are surging on the surface today like volcanoes that had been dormant for years and are now erupting from everywhere.

The highly elitistic and hierarchical education system, the weak labor power, the normal corruptions among top officials and among the biggest firms, supposedly ‘representing Korea’s image’, the biased media, all these problems can be traced back to that era.

박정희 did not maintain his power because he had a charismatic image and people believed that he would save Korea. He made sure that only the few people who believed so remained ‘visible’ and used athrocities without scrupule to keep anyone against quiet.

Can we have economic development ahead of political development? Can we even separate the two?

People say that the ‘populace’ needs to be educated first before they have ‘the right’ to exercise and experience democracy. Who decides the average people are indeed ready? Who decides that people have been sufficiently educated to exercise democracy? Who gives that person the right to say so?


Democracy in Korea is not working not because it is a ‘western system with western values’ that has not had enough time to develop properly; it was never properly implemented in the first place. Maybe democracy as practiced in the US or in European countries was not fit for Korea back then. But that doesn’t mean that the values that democracy represents do not fit with Korea, or with African countries today, for that matter. It’s only a problem of technicality where you have to find the right ‘method’ for each country. People basically and universally have a right to their freedom of speech, to elect their government and to have their freedoms and rights protected.

And to have democracy sacrificed at the expense of economic development will only delay the problems a country might have.


Sure, I am happy to be living in a country where I have most of my basic commodities at my need, where I can receive a proper education and hopefully have opportunities to find a decent job later. Now go tell that to the thousands? millions? of people living in 달동네, go tell that to the families of the 용산참사, go tell that to the undocumented immigrants.


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