BYU Asian Studies Journal


Andrew Selman


BYU Asian Studies, confucianism, authoritarianism, democratization, South Korea


Many argue that principles of liberal democracy are generally not compatible with the values and beliefs of a society based on Confucian principles.1 Confucianism promotes loyalty and obedience to and respect for those in authority. If Confucian values form the foundation of a society, then the citizens will show deference to the leaders of that country and will be more likely to submit to authoritarian or even totalitarian governments. The continuation of authoritarian governments in China, Singapore, and Vietnam, all countries with considerable Confucian influence in society, seem to support this theory. Between 1948 and 1987, South Korea also saw a rather oppressive government. However, the inability of South Korean presidents to suppress democratic movements and demonstrations and the continued consolidation of democracy, despite the inability of presidents to actively promote it, shows the case of South Korea does not support the idea that democracy and Confucian values are incompatible.