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Public Trust in Government in Japan and South Korea: Does the Rise of Critical Citizens Matter?


Soonhee Kim is an associate professor of public administration in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, and a senior research associate in the Campbell Institute of Public Affairs. Kim is the coeditor of a new book, The Future of Public Administration Around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective (Georgetown University Press, 2010).


Based on the Asia Barometer Survey of 2003, 2004, and 2006, government performance, citizen empowerment, and citizen satisfaction with self-expression values are associated with public trust in government in Japan and South Korea. This study finds, first, that government performance on the economy, controlling political corruption, the quality of public services, crime, and attention to citizen input are significantly associated with broad public trust in government in both Japan and South Korea. Likewise, citizens’ satisfaction with their right to gather and demonstrate and to criticize the government is closely connected to trust in central and local governments in Japan. In South Korea, citizens’ satisfaction with their right to gather and demonstrate is intimately linked to trust in local government. Implications for government leadership to enhance performance, transparency, citizen participation, and public trust in government are analyzed and elaborated upon in this insightful study.