Democratization and the Politics Behind Korean E-Government

Democratization and the Politics Behind Korean E-Government

James C. Schopf
DOI: 10.4018/jicthd.2012100102
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Korea has become the world E-government leader, employing ICTs to improve the openness, transparency, and accountability of government operations, yielding $1 billion in annual savings. E-government legislation wouldn’t been possible without Korea’s prior democratization, which altered incentives facing politicians, making it riskier and costly to abuse public office for private gain, while rewarding leaders for introducing reforms to reign in bureaucratic corruption and effectively deliver public goods to constituents. This study demonstrates the constraining effect of democracy on corruption through objective, comparative statics analysis of industrial policy corruption and through examination of perception polls and experience surveys of corruption before and after the democratic transition. Application of process tracing techniques reveals that E-government was introduced as part of a broader democratically-motivated drive within Korea to reduce corruption and improve government policy performance.
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Theories Of Corruption And Democratization

Institutionalist scholars disagree over whether democratization increases or decreases corruption. Those arguing in favor of increased corruption contend that democratic diffusion of authority allows numerous players, including members of the legislature, central ministries, and local government, to demand bribes for government services driving up the bribe price and multiplying individual acts of corruption (Johnston, 2005). Elections are claimed to heighten uncertainty, leading to short term oriented bribe taking. Some advocates of the ‘developmental state’ explanation for East Asian development (Amsden, 1989) similarly argue that democratization increases opportunity for politicians and lower level officials to abuse for personal ends the policy tools that had autonomous bureaucrats had previously employed to deliver economic development (Kang, 2002).

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