A Nested Game Approach to Political and Economic Liberalization in Democratizing States: The Case of South Korea

Jesse, N.G.; Heo, U.; Derouen Jr., K.
September 2002
International Studies Quarterly;Sep2002, Vol. 46 Issue 3, p401
Academic Journal
South Korea enjoyed high rates of economic growth until the mid–1990s. However in mid–1997 the country went into a severe economic crisis which ultimately resulted in a request for an IMF bailout. Leading up to the crisis, the government had embarked upon democratic liberalization but not much economic liberalization. This research explores why the government would lay the foundation for political reform without creating institutions capable of imposing economic reform on the politically powerful business sector. The absence of such institutions put the government in a position where it could not respond to the emerging economic crisis. The government’s inability to act eroded its own position of power and governance. From this perspective, the government’s inattention to economic reform appears irrational as it led to a weakening of its own position. We build a model of political and economic liberalization showing that the government was engaged in nested games (i.e., games in multiple arenas) with the political opposition, the labor unions, and the powerful business sector. We develop an argument that strong, antiliberal economic actors create incentive for the government in a democratizing state to refrain from economic liberalization, even while moving forward with democratic liberalization.


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