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Keywords:

  • democracy;
  • culture;
  • institutions;
  • nationalism;
  • identity;
  • human rights

Once, optimism abounded with the democratic project, particularly in the wake of Cold War collapse. Academics and policy-makers suggested that democracy was an inevitable spread of liberal ideals and institutions. Democratic change in South Korea since 1987 represented this optimism. More recently this liberal optimism has come in the form of South Korean multiculturalism. This is linked to democratization as institutionalizing the rights of individuals and ethnic minorities. In order to understand the prospects of South Korean democracy in an age of globalization, attention needs to be focused on the relationship between the changing forms of cultural identity, questions of cultural security and democratization. This also means a rethinking of the “Asian” values versus “Western values” debate. Reengaging with the current tensions of changing cultural identity in South Korea may set the terms for future debates on the site and nature of democracy in South Korea.